MARSHALL CO., MS (WMC) - A north Mississippi family of eight lost their home Thursday in a fire, just three weeks before Christmas.
The parents drove their autistic son, 7-year-old A.J., to a doctor's appointment in Memphis on Thursday. A neighbor called and said their property was on fire. They returned to find their home in flames.
"By the time we made it back, it was gone," Dennis Howell said.
Charred rubble is all that's left of Dennis and his wife Janet Howell's mobile home off Laws Hill Road near Holly Springs.
Holly Springs Fire Chief Kenny Holbrook said the nearest fire department is approximately 17 miles away. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to get there, and when they did, the structure was fully involved. Holbrook said the cause is unknown.
"The sentimental stuff, that's more important. You can't replace it," Howell said.
Dennis and Janet Howell have six children--Kayleigh, Sarah, Logan, A.J, Lucas, and Gabriel--all ranging in age from 10 to six.
The family doesn't have insurance, but the American Red Cross stepped in to help.
A relative of the Howells started a GoFundMe page to collect money for a new home.
Dennis Howell is thankful nobody was hurt.
"I got my hope. I got my six kids and my wife still. I got that. I'll make it through anything," he said.
He says he let his kids know they'd still have Christmas this year. But he and his wife are still figuring out how.
"You've got to tell them yes. You hope you can do it," he said.