Fire victim: starting over, one week later


Reporter - Lauren Adams
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

OBION COUNTY, Tenn. - Gene Cranick is back at work after a devastating fire claimed everything he owned.

His time on the tractor is a welcome distraction.  He said going home is another story.

"I think of things I need to go get and they aren't there," he said, breaking down.

Cranick and his wife lost pets and treasured belongings.

"I had things I inherited that can't be replaced."

South Fulton, Tennessee, firefighters refused to put out a fire at Cranick's home last Wednesday. Cranick had not paid his $75 service fee for city fire protection at his county home.

But Cranick said there is no one to blame but himself.

"There was nothing I could do about it.  I didn't pay my $75. I forgot it."

That is where the controversy begins. 

Neighbors like DeAnna Reams and her husband pleaded with firefighters.

"My husband asked how much they needed, we were willing to pay anything."

But firefighters allowed the house to burn.

One week later, Cranick, 68, is choosing to focus on the good.

"People are just pouring their hearts out to us and we appreciate it so much."

The Cranicks have been flooded with calls from as far away as Washington State.

They have gotten letters and generous offers from strangers, "We had a lady call last night from Massachusetts offer us a double wide trailer, but we can't accept that."

Cranick says he can not accept handouts, but, he says, he is getting close to accepting reality.

His house is gone.  But, he is hopeful his loss is someone else's gain.

"It might help somebody else in the long run, I hope it does," he said of firefighters possibly changing the policy.

The Cranicks are living in their camper, getting by thanks to temporary electricity and well water.

Come November, the Cranicks will take their camper and head to Texas for a few months.  Gene Cranick said they still have not decided whether or not to rebuild their home.

The Cranicks insurance company have provided emergency money.