It was one week ago today that a massive electrical fire tore through the Jaggers’ Frankford home taking with it thousands of dollars in clothing and furniture, and a lifetime of memories.
"This place is everything to us," John Jagger said. "My mom and dad bought this place and left it for us. We can’t afford rent. This is literally all we’ve got."
"It means everything to me. Now, it ain’t nothing left. Baby pictures, everything, my whole life is gone," Charles Jagger said.
Now, John Jagger, 25, the oldest of three brothers who have lived together in the small, three bedroom home on the 1400 block of Imogene Street since they were boys, is on a mission to rebuild -- room by room, if need be -- to keep the only home they’ve ever known from becoming a vacant lot.
"There used to be a house down on the corner. They had a fire and the City knocked it down, and that’s what I’m afraid of them doing. Coming by here and seeing a lot, I can’t imagine that. That would be crazy. Or they board it up, and it becomes a crack house; I don’t want that," John Jagger said.
Though the fire reduced their home to piles of scalded wood and metal, the brothers say they’re determined to make the crumbled unit a home again.
"It’s a perfectly good house, I think. We don’t want money, we don’t even want a place to stay; we just want to fix our house," John Jagger said.
This is not the first time the brothers were at risk of losing their home.
When John Jagger was only 16, and his younger twin brothers Charles and Frank Jagger were 14, they lost both of their parents to illnesses, forcing them all to grow up pretty fast.
“My mom had a brain aneurysm and my dad died of a massive heart attack eight months before my mother died. DHS tried to come and take us away, but I got emancipated by the state to take care of my brothers,” John Jagger said.
John Jagger says he had been taking care of his younger brothers and their sick parents for so long, that he grew used to handling the adult-like responsibilities.
"To be honest, it was kind of normal because my mom and dad were sick so long before that. My dad got paralyzed, so we were used to helping them. My mom was sick for maybe 6 years, and my dad was sick for at least 10 years," John Jagger said.
"None of us graduated high school or nothing like that. We all just worked. I’m the oldest. It just came natural."
The Jaggers’ cousin, Angie Campbell, said the brothers shouldered a lot of responsibility in their youth, but her father stayed close to them to provide some support after their parents died.
"They basically had to raise themselves. They had to act like grown-ups because there were no grown-ups there. My father lived next door to them. He didn’t move for that purpose, because they didn’t want to move and have to live with anybody," Campbell said.
"They buried their parents. It doesn’t get any worse than to bury your parents at such a young age. They had to go to work and become adults in order to survive. This is what they have left, this house. If they take that, what do they have left?"
Department of Licenses & Inspections spokesman Rebecca Swanson said her department's primary concern is public safety, and that they are willing to work with homeowners as long as the homeowners are willing to work with them.
"L&I routinely responds to emergencies such as fires when requested through 911 and/or Municipal Radio. However, we are not always notified to respond to the majority of residential fires, especially in single family homes. This appears to be the case in this situation, as we have no record of an inspector visiting this property. If we had responded to this fire, the inspector would have written an unsafe or imminently dangerous case on the property (depending on the condition) and a violation notice would have been sent to the owner with detailed requirements for repair and/or demolition and information on how to appeal the violation. No such case has been written," Swanson said.
“We deal with these situations on a case by case basis, but we’re always willing to work with homeowners. We never want to take away a property that someone is willing to and has the means to fix.”
According to Campbell, the Jagger brothers are more than willing, but they have no supplies, and very little construction experience.
Campbell says she’s been posting messages on Facebook, and calling everyone that she knows to try to get help for the brothers, who despite their now being homeless, are mainly concerned with saving their parents’ legacy.
“You can see that they’re not giving up. They've done so much, so far, and they don’t even have tools. They’re just in there trying their best and they have nothing. So anything anyone can give them, a dumpster, paint, lumber; anything helps,” she said.
John Jagger, a father of three, works as a tattoo artist. He said he’s been missing time at work all week, because he’s been working from sun up to sun down with his brothers, removing debris from the house.
"I tattoo for a living, that’s why you see me covered. I don’t pay for any of this. I tattoo my brothers and stuff. Now being here, I’m missing money. I mean it’s not the type of job I could get unemployment or medical from. It’s strictly a cash business," he said.
The body art, John Jagger says, sometimes leads people to pass premature judgments. That’s something, he hopes, won’t deter people from wanting to donate tools or work on the house with them.
"We don’t go out and make trouble or nothing. I guess it looks like we would because we’re all tattooed up, but it’s my work. A lot of people look at it and they hold it against you," he said.
"We’ll do the work. If people have work, we’ll work for them for the extra cash to buy supplies with. I mean, we’re willing to work nonstop."
"We’re gonna try our best. Hopefully we can do it, with us together, our cousin and everything. I mean we need more people and supplies, but I think we can do it," Charles Jagger said.
Late Sunday, the brothers shared a small victory when they successfully installed three windows and a door in the front end of the house and repainted the exterior. John Jagger maintained his steel resolve to finish the job they've started, and to lead his family to better times.
"Everything here is fixable; I know we can do this. I mean, you can’t go any lower than this, literally. So, the only way to go from here is to go up. That’s what we’re gonna do."