• 77°

Brookhaven family who lost home, car in fire say they’re ‘steadily being blessed’

As Ethel Richardson watched her home of nearly four decades light up the night sky as it burned, she felt the a loss of more than just brick and wood.

She and her family escaped the blaze Dec. 30 uninjured with just their clothes and their memories. There was no time to grab personal belongings and clothes, or any of the brand new items they’d just recently unopened at Christmas. All was lost in the tragedy. Everything they owned was either burned or scorched, covered with soot or soaked by water. McCoy even lost her car, which was parked near the front door and melted from the heat of the fire.

“We weren’t able to get nothing out at all,” said Lovie McCoy.

McCoy lived at the house at 1046 Rance Drive for about two years. She’d moved in with her mother, Ethel Richardson, with her two grown children, Chelsea McCoy and Davion “D.J.” McCoy, and her granddaughter, 4-year-old Aubrianna Gladney, to help with her father. He died Jan. 8, 2017.

This was the family’s first Christmas and New Year’s without him, which made for a tough year.

“It started with his death and ended with a fire,” McCoy said.

But even though there is reason for great sadness, McCoy said she and her family are joyful. They’re camped out in two hotel rooms with clothes and food that’s been donated while they wait for insurance and fire officials to give them the go ahead for their next step. In the meantime, they’re looking for something suitable to rent.

McCoy said they’re joyful because they’re seeing so much generosity and love from the community.

“We’re blessed and steadily being blessed. It’s wonderful to know there are people who care,” she said. “Just keep us in prayer that everything will go according to God’s will. It’s a feeling of love to know that people we know, people we don’t know, are helping. It’s a great feeling to know that we are loved.”

McCoy is a secretary at the Head Start in Bogue Chitto. Her mother is a secretary in the special services department for the Brookhaven School District.

The Ethel Richardson Benefit Account has been set up at Trustmark Bank.

The loss has been tough for little Aubrianna, who didn’t quite understand what was happening as she was shuttled out into the rain the night of the fire and watched her home burn. Only moments before, she’d been playing with some of her new toys by the tree, which was still decorated. The family was waiting until New Year’s Day to put it away.

“She knows the house is not there,” McCoy said. “She keeps saying, ’The fire tore up our house, MiMi. We can just go to Walmart and buy us a house.”

If only it were that easy, McCoy said. They’re waiting on the insurance adjuster to tell them if they can salvage part of the house, which she doubts, or if they’ll need to start over from scratch. McCoy’s mother wants to rebuild on Rance Drive.

“She would love to stay there in that same lot,” McCoy said. “It’s a great neighborhood. It’s great neighbors and everybody looks out for each other.”

When McCoy realized they couldn’t put out the fire themselves, she sent her daughter out to tell the neighbors. Many of them sprayed water from hoses onto the fast-growing flames while they waited for fire trucks to arrive.

While firefighters worked to save the house, Richardson and the McCoys gathered across the street. Neighbors covered them with coats and blankets.

“We were just standing there and praying,” she said. “Mother was calm, saying ‘Thank the Lord we got out.’”

She held her great-granddaughter as they sat on the porch out of the rain.

“Calm down,” she told them. “We’re going to be alright. We can replace stuff. We all got out. That’s what matters.”

McCoy was overcome with emotion watching the home she grew up in burn. She watched the fire spreading and watched her car start smoking.

“It’s a bad horrible feeling. You see everything you’ve known just go away,” she said. “

She’s thankful her son routinely checked all the doors when he came home about 11:30 p.m. That’s how he found the fire starting to burn in the utility room beside the laundry room. McCoy and her daughter and granddaughter were in the living room, but never smelled the smoke. Her mother was already in bed, though not asleep.

“If we had been in that house any longer, we wouldn’t have been able to get out,” she said.

McCoy said family is the most important thing.

“Everything else is just material,” she said. “You can replace material stuff, but you can’t replace life.”