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Debris fire critically burns local resident

After working as a butcher for 20 years at Albertsons in Grass Valley, Michael Martinez was ready to build his dream house by a creek and retire.

But on the morning of Jan. 30 – just one week after he and his wife, Mary, had moved into their newly built home in Dobbins – his clothes caught fire while he was burning a pile of debris.

Martinez suffered third-degree burns over 45 percent of his body and was airlifted to the UC Davis Burn Center, where he remained in critical condition Friday, emergency officials reported.



“He was burning what the contractors had left,” said his son, Dave Martinez, who explained that the builders had been telling his parents they would come and take care of the materials when his 61-year-old dad decided just to burn the waste himself.

Several relatives have flown in from around the world to show their love and support for Michael Martinez, his son said, and friends have helped coordinate a fund-raising effort to aid the family.




“(His condition is) not good. They say he has infection in his blood,” Dave Martinez said.

Mary Martinez has been trying to work her night job as a nurse’s aide while spending the days with her husband, but it has been rough on her, Dave Martinez said.

Together, Michael and Mary Martinez have 13 grandchildren, and “we are praying for (them) to know their grandfather,” Dave Martinez said, explaining that his father and his own 4-year-old son, D.J., have a particularly strong relationship.

“They have a special bond. When we mention his name (my father) starts trying to move his lips,” he said.

He also said that his father is proud of having served his country during the Vietnam War as an M-60 gunner from 1969-1971. Mary and Michael Martinez first moved to Grass Valley in 1982, living in Colfax for a short time after Michael retired from Albertsons in 2000.

He was well-respected at the supermarket, store manager Jerry Hanaway said, and when Martinez’s former co-workers learned of the accident, they tried to send flowers but were told that because of he was in the Burn Center, a card would be better.

“I personally feel sad for him, because I know he worked so hard his whole life. I used to have a lot of fun with him,” Hanaway said.

Grass Valley resident Troy Hammock has known the Martinez family since attending Sierra Mountain High School with Dave Martinez. It was his idea to ask the community for support, he said.

“(Mary) is terrified she will lose her house; she is terrified of being alone,” Hammock said. “He is the wage earner and it was his pension that was supporting them.”

How to help

An account has been set up for donations that will help Mary and Michael Martinez with their medical expenses:

– Account No. 0439561572 at Wells Fargo.


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