Siblings brave flames to escape Tyler Fire |

Siblings brave flames to escape Tyler Fire

Jennifer Terman
Staff Writer

The home of John Barquilla, where his sister Marie Barquilla also stayed to care for him, burned down to the ground from the Tyler fire in North San Juan Saturday.

When the fire surrounded her brother's house, Marie Barquilla jumped in her truck and drove through flames, leaving behind her brother, who insisted on staying with his dog and trying to prevent the blaze from consuming his home.

Marie Barquilla was fixing lunch for her and her brother, John Barquilla, Saturday when she went to make a phone call and found she could not because a telephone pole burned down in the distance from a fire off Tyler Foote Road.

About 15 minutes later, the flames had leapt forward, and the porch was on fire. It was time to leave, but John Barquilla could not leave his dog, a 14-year-old Alaskan malamute with a weak leg and trouble entering vehicles.

"I'm starting to see the actual flames, and I said, 'John, come on!' and he said, 'My dog's not going to get into the truck.' We were arguing. The porch was on flames, and he wouldn't come with me," said Marie Barquilla through tears. "I had to leave him there with his dog."

Marie drove her truck through flames to the end of the road where she found a man named Jordan, whose last name is unknown, and asked if he could help her brother.

"He ran up there on his quad to try and get my brother," she said.

Recommended Stories For You

Marie moved to the end of Ivy Street, where firefighters were, and explained that her brother's house was on fire.

"They said, 'No structures are burning,' and I said, 'I just came from my brother's house. It's burning!' and they asked for the address, and, I didn't know the numbers so I tried to explain where it was, and they did get a fire truck up there, but it was too late."

The firefighter came back and told Marie that her brother got out alive, and a wave of relief overcame her.

"I'm tingling all over," she said, recalling the experience. "It was just massive relief and crying. I just thought, Thank God my brother is OK.' That was the most important thing that he got out because I drove away with him there."

Marie described the event as "horrendous" with the worst part being surrounded by flames while her brother stayed behind.

"Looking in the rearview mirror and seeing my brother standing there was just devastating," she said. "What I saw in my head was me and my brother standing there burning, and I was so scared, and I begged him. He said, 'I'm not leaving my dog,' and I screamed, and we were screaming at each other, and he said, 'Get the (expletive) out of here!'

"It was really, really intense. I really thought my brother and I were going to die."

John Barquilla said he tried to hose down the flames to salvage his home, which he lived in for 12 years, to no avail.

"I thought (Marie) was going to have a heart attack, and I said, 'Just go,' so she left, and I stayed there with my dog," he said. "Hot embers landed in the yard a little ways from the house, and I was hosing them down and then the fire got really loud. It came so fast, and I realized there was no use."

The fire marked another unfortunate situation John Barquilla faced, as he injured his knee on the job at Original Sixteen to One Mine in Allegheny in 2001, which required four surgeries and an artificial knee replacement, and he fell and fractured his femur last January, which has not totally healed.

"It's not been a good couple of years for me," he said.

Marie had cared for John and stayed with him in the home, losing all of her things to the fire as well.

"I was caretaking, cooking and cleaning and making sure he takes his meds and stuff," she said. "So all of my clothes, my laptop, everything is gone. You don't think of stuff. I was thinking, 'I'm going to make a cup of coffee,' and I don't even have that."

All of Marie and John's belongings were destroyed and she is in need of clothing and toiletries, but she hopes more than anything that someone would be willing to rent a place to her brother and his dog.

"The main thing is we would like it if somebody has a home they would rent us and accept his Malamute dog," she said. "That's the most important thing that he has a place to go with his dog. We would pay rent if somebody will get us a place as soon as possible."

John Barquilla has stayed with his son since the fire, which has posed a challenge because his dog does not get along with others, and his son has two dogs.

John is supposed to receive a call from the insurance company Tuesday but said in the mean time he hopes he can find a place or trailer to accommodate his dog.

"I'm definitely going to need a place and hopefully somewhere nearby," he said. "I know that's hoping for a lot, but you never know. Even if I can get a hold of a trailer or something and put it on that property, I would be willing to stay there."

The Tyler Fire that destroyed John Barquilla's home began at 2:41 p.m. and burned 52 acres with containment at 9:20 p.m., according to Marc Zayas, communications operator for Grass Valley Cal Fire.

One structure was damaged, and one was threatened, he said, and the agencies involved in the containment included Grass Valley and Butte County Cal Fire, North San Juan, Grass Valley, Nevada County Consolidated, Nevada City, Rough and Ready Volunteer, Camptonville fire departments and Tahoe National Forest Service.

To help John and Marie Barquilla, contact Marie at 530-273-9758.

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

Go back to article