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Woman doesn't blame firefighters who let home burn

A Tennessee woman says she doesn't blame the firefighters who watched while her house burned to the ground after her family failed to pay a $75 annual protection fee.

Paulette Cranick said Wednesday the firefighters who came to the scene were just following orders. Cranick said her family had paid the fee in the past but simply forgot it recently.

She's thankful no one was hurt in the fire last week that destroyed their doublewide trailer in rural northwest Tennessee.

Firefighters did not try to save the burning structure because Cranick's fee wasn't paid. Firefighters went to the scene to keep flames from spreading to nearby property whose owners had paid the fee.

Cranick and her husband are now living in their camper and a 21-year-old grandson who lived with them is living with his mother.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

SOUTH FULTON, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee woman said Wednesday she doesn't blame the firefighters who watched while her house burned to the ground after her family failed to pay a $75 annual protection fee.

Paulette Cranik said the firefighters who came to the scene were just following orders. Her family had paid the fee in the past but simply forgot it recently. Cranik, 67, said she's just thankful no one was hurt in the fire last week that destroyed the doublewide trailer in rural northwest Tennessee.

"You can't blame them if they have to do what the boss says to do," Cranik told The Associated Press. "I've had firemen call and apologize."

Firefighters did not try to save the burning structure because Cranik had not paid the subscription fee for fire protection. Firefighters went to the scene to keep flames from spreading to nearby property whose owners had paid. The county does not have fire service, but rural residents can pay a fee to get service from the nearby town of South Fulton.

Her grandson, Lance Cranik, 21, who lived there with her and her husband, started the fire while burning trash in a barrel. He went inside to take a shower and upon returning saw a shed next to the house in flames. It spread despite his efforts to put it out with a garden hose.

Paulette Cranik said they had paid the fee in the past, although sometimes late, but it slipped their mind this year.

Lance Cranik said "this is something I've got to live with the rest of my life."

"To see the house and everything you grew up in burning down before your eyes is kind of harsh," he said.

He recalled that he called the fire department and asked them to come but they declined.

"I was in shock," he said.

Local officials did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday to The Associated Press for comment but have confirmed to local media that the family did not pay the fee.

Paulette Cranik and her husband are now living in their year-old camper and Lance is living with his mother. The family says it's received offers of help but that the aid isn't needed.

"We have insurance and are happy everyone is alive," she said.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling of family's last name to Cranick)