Taos Pueblo family seeks aid following structure fire

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 5/26/20

A Taos Pueblo family is seeking financial assistance after losing part of their home, a vehicle and numerous personal possessions to a fire on May 16.

 

 

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Taos Pueblo family seeks aid following structure fire

Posted

A Taos Pueblo family is seeking financial assistance after losing part of their home, a vehicle and numerous personal possessions to a fire on May 16.

Kathleen Michaels, her 85-year-old mother, Juanita Turley, and Michaels' boyfriend, Leroy Martinez, awoke to see flames leaping from the adobe home's front porch around 10:30 p.m. that night, which they now believe were started by a barbecue they had used to make dinner that evening.

"The high east-west winds fanned an ember that was evidently still alive," Michaels wrote in an email to the Taos News this week, recalling the incident.

To escape, she said Martinez hunched over and ran through the flames on the porch, "like a football player trying to get through the line." He met Micheals and Turley at a window on the porch-side of the one-story house, where he helped them climb to safety as smoke filled the house, Michaels said. She yelled for her Yorkie, Penny, but the dog didn't appear.

Michaels said Martinez moved Turley's car away from danger, but by the time a Taos Pueblo tribal officer arrived, her own vehicle, a Jeep, was already on fire. The officer advised them to move away from it in case it were to explode.

In the midst of the emergency, no one realized that Martinez had become badly injured when he ran through the flames. He was flown by helicopter to a burn center elsewhere in the state and was still being treated on Tuesday (May 26) for second- and third-degree burns.

Hours after firefighters put out the blaze, Michaels' Jeep was a blackened metal shell. Her home's porch and much of the interior had also been destroyed, while the sturdy adobe foundation stood intact.

She found her dog unharmed, but numerous possessions were lost, including her home's appliances, beds, traditional ceremonial wear, gifts passed down to her from her late father, power tools she had been using to renovate the home – which she built. A line of trees they had been planting were destroyed.

Michael's estimates the cost of buying the materials they'll need to rebuild is roughly $50,000, not including medical bills. Michaels and a friend organized a GoFundMe page on May 17 to seek financial support from their community, which as of Tuesday evening had raised close to $14,000. She said she'll also be seeking assistance from Taos Pueblo Housing and the American Red Cross in the aftermath of the fire.

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