By Beth David, Editor
A devasting fire destroyed Jackson’s Variety store, an icon on Sconticut Neck Road in Fairhaven, on Monday, 2/3/20. The 911 call was made around 7:40 a.m. The business has operated as Jackson’s for more than 50 years, and was Buster’s before that.
According to Kristina “Tina” Jackson, whose family owns the building and business, she was in the store working when she heard the baby monitor go crazy. The monitor was installed because her father, Colin “Jack” Jackson, lives upstairs from the store and is no longer able to walk. She went upstairs and saw flames and smoke coming from the sun room. She and her niece managed to get Jack out of bed and onto his hands and knees, but then they could not get him past the door.
The 6’4”, 280-pound man was unable to move through the door himself.
They were both getting weaker, according to Tina’s husband Phil Lawrence. The niece was shooed out of the building, but Tina refused to leave.
“She couldn’t breathe, he kept telling Tina to leave,” said Mr. Lawrence. “She said ‘no.’”
The fire was growing, and the smoke was getting thicker.
“She was getting weak and coughing, he was coughing. Then them guys showed up like angels,” said Mr. Lawrence. “They showed up. I thank God every day them guys ran upstairs. My wife was not leaving her father up there.”
He said there is no doubt in his mind that the “angels” saved the lives of both Jack and Tina.
“If it wasn’t for them guys, they’d both be dead now,” said Mr. Lawrence.
Butch Beauparland and Roberta Raymond entered the building when they realized someone was inside. Soon after, Dr. Paul Fall, Ron Rock and Anthony Cogswell entered.
Dr. Fall, Mr. Beauparland, Ms. Raymond and Mr. Rock helped Mr. Jackson through the smoke and down the stairs. Anthony Cogswell also ran into the building. But he said he did not hear anyone after getting about halfway up the stairs before the smoke and fire stopped him.
There are two stairways in the back of the store leading to the living quarters, one with a stair-lift. But it was not working, presumably because the fire had interfered with the electricity.
Mr. Cogswell told the Neighb News that he left the building after believing there was no one inside. Then he heard someone calling for help at the rear of the building on the north side. He helped the others and they managed to get Mr. Jackson to the edge of the property and over a chain-link fence.
Glass from breaking windows shattered on the ground near them as they made their slow way along the building. First responders arrived as they reached the street.
Mr. Jackson, 83, and his granddaughter were taken to the hospital, where Mr. Jackson was kept for several days, being treated for smoke inhalation. Tina at first refused treatment, but then went to the hospital later that day and was kept overnight for observation, also for smoke inhalation. No one suffered burns in the fire, according to Mr. Lawrence.
After the intensity of those minutes passed, neighbors stood in disbelief for the next couple of hours as they watched the Fairhaven icon burn with an intensity of its own. More than an hour later, hot spots flared up in the roof and along the side of the building as firefighters fought the blaze.
The building is a total loss.
Inside, Mr. Lawrence said, everything in the living quarters was ruined.
“I went upstairs today,” he said on Tuesday. “There ain’t nothing there. I was hoping to find a picture or something. Forget it. All the memories are gone. All the memories are gone.”
Mr. Jackson’s wife, Peggy, 83, has been in the hospital since December, suffering from her own ailments. Mr. Lawrence said she probably did not know what happened because of her medical condition.
“It’s the end of an era,” said Mr. Lawrence while on the scene on Monday as firefighters battled the blaze. “It’s the end of an era.”
Bob Santos lives in the neighborhood and said he has been in the store many times. He said he saw a Facebook post and went outside and saw the smoke.
“It’s so sad, so sad,” said Mr. Santos.
Dr. Fall told the Neighb News that he and the others managed to lift Mr. Jackson, but it was no easy task. He is not able to walk, so he was “dead weight,” said Dr. Fall.
He said he was not sure how they did it.
Mr. Cogswell said he was dropping his child off at school and noticed a bunch of people standing around.
“When you see a group of people, there’s confusion,” he said.
He asked if there were any people, or animals inside.
“I’m an animal lover,” said Mr. Cogswell. “I went upstairs, I saw the flames.”
He later described it like flames you would see in a movie.
He said he then went to the other side and found the other people “dragging” Mr. Jackson out.
“I was on the side,” said Dr. Fall. “Rock went up. It took the four of us to get him down.”
And all the while the fire was raging.
He said he was worried as they walked along the side of the house. He knew they had to get away from the building.
“The glass was popping, breaking on them,” added Patricia Regan, a friend of the Jackson family, who helped direct rescuers.
“It’s scary,” said Dr. Fall, but that was after it was over.
“I didn’t even think,” he said. “I didn’t think any of those thoughts. I just had to get him out of the house.”
“I can’t believe how fast that went up,” said Dr. Fall as he watched the building burn.
“I’ve been saying the same thing,” said Ms. Regan.
Tina was next door at Mac’s Soda Bar after her ordeal.
“Thank God for those guys,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to get my dad down the stairs.”
And, she added: “Thank God we got that baby monitor.”
Mr. Lawrence, though, did manage to find his sense of humor, even as he watched the smoke pour out of the windows.
“You can put this in the paper,” said Mr. Lawrence. “We’re gonna have a sale in the store, and it’s all gonna be pre-cooked.”
What are you going to do,” he added. “There’s nothing you can do. Nothing you can do about it, unfortunately.”
The fire started in the sunroom that is off the deck on the south side of the building. Deputy Fire Chief Todd Correia told the Neighb News that the fire is still under investigation, but is “believed to be electrical in nature.”
Ms. Regan, who has known the family for decades and said Jack was her best man in 1973, started a GoFundMe page for the Jackson family (https://www.gofundme.com/f/jackson039s-variety-fire-fund)
She wrote: “I started the gofundme page thinking that the Jacksons would need help with ‘extras’ that the insurance co. wouldn’t cover but I found out today — and some donors suggested I share this information on an update — that NEITHER THE BUILDING, NOR THE BUSINESS, WERE INSURED. Thankful and appreciative of all the funds that have been raised so far, I got permission from Tina to share this information with you.”
The page had raised $5,915 by press time.
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Click here to download the entire 2/6/20 issue: 02-06-20 JacksonsFire