Oxon Hill man dies in house fire
Resident, 64, remembered for his motivational spirit, drive
Angus Jackson spent Saturday chopping wood for his father, Robert. On Monday morning, Jackson stood "in shock" outside his father's Oxon Hill home.
Robert F. Jackson, 64, a man that friends, family and employees called "Buffalo" because of his strong resolve, died when a fire trapped him Monday inside his house at 307 Corla Drive. The cause is under investigation.
Firefighters who responded to the call at about 8:15 a.m. found Jackson dead in a bathroom in his basement, said Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department Acting Chief Marc S. Bashoor. The department has not released the victim's identity, but family members at the scene confirmed the resident killed was Robert Jackson.
"About 25 minutes into [firefighters] having attacked the fire and conducting an initial search, they did find a deceased individual in the house," Bashoor said.
A caregiver, who was the only other person in the two story home when it caught fire, jumped from the second-floor window to escape the flames and was taken to an area hospital to be treated for an apparent leg injury and smoke inhalation, Bashoor said in front of the charred olive green and brick home.
Robert Jackson's wife, Carolyn Jackson, said her husband was suffering from dementia, and the medication he took left him physically weak. She said she first heard about the blaze when she received a call from her husband's caregiver, whom the fire department described as approximately 30 years old.
"She said she tried to get down there to get him, but she just couldn't get there because of the fire, so she had to jump out of the bedroom window," Carolyn said, breaking into sobs. "My nerves is real bad right now. I can't even think straight. It's just a tragedy that I didn't want to happen."
Although investigators haven't determined what caused the fire, Jackson's family members say it likely started in the home's fireplace, which Jackson almost always kept stoked in the winter.
Bashoor's unit had not yet determined whether Jackson's home had a smoke detector, and he reminded there are "common sense" moves people can make to protect their homes from fire.
"Don't overload fire places. Do not have combustible materials near heaters. Make sure they are using extension chords that are rated properly," Bashoor said. "But I want to emphasize that we don't have any information that that's the case here."
On Jan. 19, a 9-year-old girl was killed and her three siblings were injured in a Hyattsville house fire. Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the blaze.
Because of Monday morning's water main break in Capitol Heights that shut down the Capital Beltway for hours, firefighters had to bring in additional water, about 10,000 gallons as opposed to the usual 1,000 gallons, to fight the fire. It took 34 firefighters about 15 minutes to beat down the flames, Bashoor said.
Angus Jackson described his father, a retired contractor, as a stern man who demanded respect.
"He had a drive about him. He's a motivator. He's a pusher, especially when he had his business [Buffalo Construction Co.]. He had a thing for driving guys," Angus said.
Robert F. Jackson's brother, James Rorls of Washington, D.C., called him tough.
"My brother was the type of guy that had no time for pain," Rorls said. "He wasn't the type of guy for no weakness."
Ottora Gamble didn't have a father figure when he met Jackson in 1978, and Jackson raised him as a son, instilling in him a strong work ethic. Through that drive, Jackson will live on, Gamble said.
"If you was sick and didn't feel like getting up in the morning, he'd be like, Hey, you gotta pay these bills, you gotta get up, you gotta go to work,'" Gamble said. "If he was still here and this happened, he would come look at this house and say, I guess we gotta get some tools and start rebuilding this house.'"
He wouldn't sit here and cry and whimper about it."
Angus said his father slowed down some with old age. Jackson no longer ran his construction business, and he relied on a caregiver to help him go about his daily life. But the fireplace offered some source of constant motivation.
"His main concern was keeping the wood going," Angus said. "Keeping the flame going."