Fire kills man in mobile home with no electricity

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Becky Rebeck's son planned to help rewire the mobile home Johnny Bell had been living in so the elderly man could stop using candles and a lantern for light.

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Johnny Bell, 67, died when an early morning fire consumed his home. Mr. Bell was a "real nice fellow," one neighbor said.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Johnny Bell, 67, died when an early morning fire consumed his home. Mr. Bell was a "real nice fellow," one neighbor said.

But a fire that started in Mr. Bell's bedroom and spread quickly throughout the trailer killed the handicapped Grovetown man Wednesday morning.

Martinez-Columbia County Fire Rescue authorities couldn't confirm whether the fire was caused by the candles or the lantern, but neighbors said Mr. Bell did not have electricity at his home in the 600 block of Al Dempsey Road.

Columbia County Deputy Coroner Harriett Garrison said it appeared Mr. Bell, 67, succumbed to smoke. Mr. Bell was transported to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Augusta for an autopsy. He was an amputee, having lost his left leg, Mrs. Garrison said.

"He was kind of a loner. He didn't want to bother nobody," Mrs. Rebeck said. "He was a good neighbor. I'm going to miss him."

Mr. Bell ate holiday meals with the Rebecks, who lived next door to him for more than 15 years and allowed him to retrieve water from their well.

Mr. Bell did not have water or electrical service to his home and was using candles and lanterns for light, Mrs. Garrison said.

"We knew he was having trouble in the last year," Mrs. Rebeck said. She said she'd heard a Grovetown church was raising funds to install a new pump and pipes in Mr. Bell's well.

Mrs. Rebeck said her son, an electrician, had planned to help rewire Mr. Bell's home once the well was complete.

Though she knew Mr. Bell had some family living in the area, Mrs. Rebeck said she didn't often see visitors at his house.

"He was a pretty quiet guy," neighbor Glenn Bowman said, adding he didn't see Mr. Bell often, but the pair spoke when he did. "He kind of kept to himself. He was a real nice fellow."

The fire began about 6 a.m. Mrs. Rebeck said her grandson thought the flames were coming from a trash fire since they often saw Mr. Bell outside burning rubbish.

Mrs. Rebeck's son and husband ran down to the single-wide mobile home and broke a window to get Mr. Bell out. But the smoke, fire and heat prevented them from entering the home, she said.

"My dad tried to help him get out," said Mrs. Rebeck's granddaughter, Alexa Rebeck, "but he couldn't get in."

Reach Valerie Rowell at (706) 868-1222, ext. 110, or valerie.rowell@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (19)

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terrid
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terrid 08/27/09 - 01:25 am
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God bless him!!! that is such

God bless him!!! that is such a sad story,Ive been in his shoes with no electricity and its hard to live like that,I had plenty of family in columbia co. but they didnt come around either.

pops1
11
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pops1 08/27/09 - 06:23 am
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What a shame. God Bless the

What a shame. God Bless the neighbors for attempting to help him and for being there for him in his hardened way of living. We have to pray for his family who did not care enough to make certain this gentleman was properly housed, clothed and fed. We all have to remember where we came from. I too have had to live in hardened times and I thank God for the people He put into my life to help me. My family was there for me, though. May he rest in peace.

1trugent
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1trugent 08/27/09 - 07:41 am
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If people can't depend on

If people can't depend on family, who can they depend on?

TrulyWorried
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TrulyWorried 08/27/09 - 07:55 am
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1trugent - in this case he

1trugent - in this case he could depend on caring neighbors. May he rest in peace. And God bless those who did care!

Newsreader
11
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Newsreader 08/27/09 - 08:34 am
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Maybe prayers have been

Maybe prayers have been answered. He has no need for the well or rewiring, or electricity now. Rest in Peace, true and humble servant, rest in peace.

liveandlearn
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liveandlearn 08/27/09 - 08:52 am
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What a horrible story. Thank

What a horrible story. Thank God for the neighbors who never let him spend the holidays alone. I hope he didn't suffer during that fire. He gets to spend his eternal life in luxury now. Thank God for that.

NrthAugustaSam
447
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NrthAugustaSam 08/27/09 - 09:18 am
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Maybe some our local churches

Maybe some our local churches will get a clue from this sad incident that there is mission work to do right here in our backyard. Instead of spending thousands to travel to some distant land where hoards of churches flock to save the same people week after week, why not seek out the "Mr. Bell's" of our own community. Oh - wait though. The trip might not be as fun and the place not so exotic. And don't forget the photos you would miss out on to put on your Facebook to show everyone what you did!

sueboo418
36
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sueboo418 08/27/09 - 09:35 am
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I'm glad to see an article

I'm glad to see an article about this man today. People were slamming him yesterday not evening knowing the situation. He won't have to worry about electricity or water any more. He is in a better place now.

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 08/27/09 - 09:35 am
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Such a sad story..and I agree

Such a sad story..and I agree with you NAsam.............

chanbran
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chanbran 08/27/09 - 11:08 am
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This is truly a sad story, a

This is truly a sad story, a man has lost his life and a family that loved and cared for him dearly has to read this article and all the negative comments that have been posted. Mr. Bell's family loved him dearly, he has a sister that always cared for him. To the neighbors and the readers you do not no this familly so please stop judging them, and allow them to grieve in peace. Mr. Bell' family loved him.

NrthAugustaSam
447
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NrthAugustaSam 08/27/09 - 12:40 pm
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The price paid for plane

The price paid for plane tickets alone for a recent mission trip by a Columbia County church to Costa Rica could have bought this man a new mobile home.

2 B JUST ME
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2 B JUST ME 08/27/09 - 01:22 pm
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Amen NA SAM, I've said this

Amen NA SAM, I've said this for years. The children here, The homeless, The down on luck, out of work people.Not to mention the sick.
I see churchs building on, adding parking lots, giving to missions over seas. That is hundreds of thousands of dollars that only a small portion could have saved or helped a person or family. It should not be this way.

storiesihaveread
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storiesihaveread 08/27/09 - 01:41 pm
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Yeah sueboo wonder those

Yeah sueboo wonder those people are at now. Liveandlearn good post!

1trugent
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1trugent 08/27/09 - 02:36 pm
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Take what the Lord gives you

Take what the Lord gives you and then give it back. That has always been my motto. There are many people in America truly blessed with a talent to gain millions of dollars in wealth and it would be nice if they shared it in cases such as this. In fact, if more people lived by this motto, then we could tell the government to take a hike. No child should go hungry, no family should go homeless and no one should go without medical care. But none of us should be forced to see to these things. It should come from the heart. I'm all for doing away with Welfare, Section 8 and all entitlement programs, but to do so, we need people to do their share and it begins with the families of the people who are need of gov't assistance. Before any of my relatives resided in gov't housing, I would have them live with me. You know, unlike Obama did for his aunt. He knew she was here illegally reaping the benefits from off the tax payer.

TheGeorgian
351
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TheGeorgian 08/27/09 - 02:38 pm
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NrthAugustaSam is absolutely

NrthAugustaSam is absolutely right! Charity begins at home and we've seen too much grandstanding on the part of churches and politicians when it comes to foreign countries and people such as this gentleman are overlooked. The value of a man to society should not depend on whether he is rich or famous but that he is a person. And this nation has so very many forgotten people. Let's use this sad story to spearhead an initiative to help our own local people first, then people more distant.

corgimom
19240
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corgimom 08/27/09 - 05:09 pm
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1trugent, do you know Obama's

1trugent, do you know Obama's aunt? Did she ask to come stay with him, and he refused? Or was he supposed to move where she was? How do you know that he even had any communication with her? How do you know that he even has a relationship with her? I don't know the people in your family, but most elderly people don't want to live with their children. They already had to live with them when they were raising them, and they don't want to do it again. So what do you do? Do you insist upon it? Force it on them? Get a court order?

Nammy3
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Nammy3 08/27/09 - 05:21 pm
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You all have touched my

You all have touched my heart, even more so than just this story did! God Bless us ALL!! R.I.P. Mr. Bell and be blessed in your new home!

ispy4u
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ispy4u 08/27/09 - 06:03 pm
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CMOM, your 5:09 PM post was

CMOM, your 5:09 PM post was right on point.

tired of the crap
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tired of the crap 08/28/09 - 12:18 am
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CMOM Do u know obumas

CMOM Do u know obumas auntie?

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