Sticking together in Bonneau

Malik Scott-Mahoney, 11, inspects the damage to his grandmother's Bonneau home Monday. Thirteen people lived in the mobile home, including Scott-Mahoney's father, Esau Mahoney.

BONNEAU — Two first cousins bounced a worn-out ball on the dusty driveway Monday as their parents and grandmother stared at the burned-out mobile home behind them and wondered, "What now?"

Thirteen people — three generations — lost their home after fire destroyed the five-bedroom double-wide mobile home Sunday evening and nearly everything inside: clothes, a computer, the children's Christmas presents.

"Everything is gone," Kimberly Johnson said.

Johnson lived at her mother's home with her husband, their four children and her siblings and their children. Seven children and six adults all together.

The reason they all live together has more to do with being a family than the poor economy, they said. The family always has stuck together, members said.

"Everybody knows everybody, so it's kind of fun for the kids," said Esau Mahoney, who has lived with his mother for about four years.

All they have now is each other. The home was not insured.

"With family and prayer we'll pull together," Mahoney said.

The family sat outside the home at 1068 Blue Flame Road for a little while Monday, watching the boys play basketball, as friends and neighbors walked over carrying plastic grocery bags of T-shirts and other clothes for the children.

Johnson, who's husband, Earnest, drives a truck for a living, said they're trying to look at the bright side of things but that it's been hard.

"The hardest thing is the kids looking at this and saying, 'Mom, we don't have this, mom, we don't have this,' " Johnson said. "I just tell them all of us are alive. That's the best thing."

Investigators think a faulty hot-water heater ignited around 5:30 p.m., but no one was injured. Johnson said her sister was home when it happened. She saw the smoke and ushered all the kids out.

"All she could do was get her kids," Johnson said.

Mahoney said he was down the street when he heard someone yelling. He said they made sure everyone was out of the house but that there was little else they could do.

"There was too much smoke," he said.

The family has accepted some help from the Lowcountry Chapter of the American Red Cross, food and clothing but not shelter. They're trying to stay together by staying with Johnson's aunt and grandmother.

Earnest Johnson said they hope they can rebuild.

"With the grace of God it's possible," he said.

Louise Welch, executive director of the local Red Cross chapter, said they're helping more and more extended families forced from their homes because of fire. Most are struggling to get by because of the poor economy.