This was supposed to be a joyous holiday for Gary and Sheila Breaux. The Hancock County couple recently repaired the second floor of a hurricane damaged home. And Santa brought a sleigh filled with presents to the Breauxs two boys. But just when everybody figured the worst was behind them, an apparently faulty Christmas light sparked a fire that destroyed everything the Breauxs rebuilt.
"There wasn't much more we could do except watch it burn," Mrs. Breaux said about five hours after the house fire destroyed almost everything she owned. "Richie took it real hard. He was in the front yard screaming fire, fire. 911. Somebody help." Richie is 11. His brother Ryan is eight. They were so excited about Christmas, they got up at 3:30 am, opened a few presents, and took them upstairs.
About two hours later, the dawn of their holiday celebration was darkened by smoke pouring out of Gary and Sheila Breauxs two story home. "No feelings. I'm just devastated," Mr. Breaux said. "I just don't know what to say."
The Breauxs never imagined that all the work they put into restoring their hurricane damaged Hancock County home would go up in flames. "I'm still in shock. The adrenaline is just coming down off of me. Now I've got the shakes," admitted Sheila Breaux. "And now, I've got to figure out where to go from now, try to pick up the pieces."
When the predawn fire ignited, the Breauxs had two thoughts. "Save the children. Save my pets," Mrs. Breaux said. Their two boys made it out of the burning house safely. So did nine family dogs. But the Breauxs could only save one of their cats. And they couldn't salvage their Christmas presents, or any of their family valuables.
"I just don't understand. I don't understand why this happened to me," said Gary.
As one of the Breauxs neighbors said, what Katrina didn't wash away in 2005 was charred in an instant by a Christmas morning fire on Comanche Street in Jourdan River Shores. He reminded the family that the house is "a material thing. Do it again. Tear it down and start over."
Just hours after the Christmas morning fire, rebuilding wasn't on Gary Breaux's radar. His focus was on surviving, just as the family did after four feet of hurricane flood waters rushed through their home. "We're doing all right. We'll make it," said Mr. Breaux.
For the next three days, the Red Cross' Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter will provide a hotel for the Breauxs. The agency is also donating clothes and food vouchers to the family to help the fire victims get back on their feet.
The state fire marshal is expected at the Jourdan River Shores property on Wednesday to investigate whether Christmas lights caused the house fire.