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Fire claims family man

Those final minutes Mary Martinez shared with her husband, Michael, before he went unconscious will no doubt be forever embedded in her memory.

She was desperately trying to keep him warm while they waited for a helicopter to arrive at their newly constructed Dobbins home on Jan. 30. Michael had been trying to burn a pile of construction debris when his clothes caught fire, and he was able to follow Mary into the house before becoming incapacitated by his wounds.

She put a wet sheet on him and comforted him as the helicopter ambulance neared, said niece Candi Mickelson.



Although Mike Martinez – a longtime butcher at the Grass Valley Albertsons – was able to hold on for nearly a month in the University of California, Davis Burn Center, he died Wednesday from his injuries sustained in the fire, including burns over almost half his body. While the family had hopes that Martinez would get better when he briefly opened his eyes last week, his health rapidly deteriorated Wednesday.

The doctors told the family that he only had three hours to live. He died 15 minutes later, said his brother Ralph Martinez, who lives in Grass Valley.




Mike Martinez never got a chance to say good-bye to his friends and family, having been heavily sedated upon arrival to the hospital so he wouldn’t feel the extreme pain.

“That is what probably hurts the most, that I wasn’t able to talk to him,” Ralph Martinez said.

But friends and family will remember Mike for his charisma, generosity, dedication to his family, and love of the outdoors.

“He was a character; he was always entertaining. I always tried to be like him because he was the cool one,” said nephew Adam Martinez.

Mike was also a well-respected member of the community, having worked at Albertsons in Grass Valley for almost 20 years, moving to the area to be closer to several of his nine brothers and sisters who already lived here.

“He was a very dedicated meat manager. As far as I know he was very well-liked,” Ralph Martinez said. He said his brother had worked as a butcher his whole life, starting out at a small, family-owned butcher shop in Santa Barbara when he was 18 years old.

He retired four years ago, and Mike and Mary Martinez had just moved into their a new modular home on a 5-acre parcel in January. It was supposed to be their dream home – a quick and easy move that would give Mike Martinez a chance to do gardening work with his Kabota tractor, something he loved to do.

“He needed to have something to do outside; he loved gardening,” Ralph Martinez said. Mike Martinez’s grandchildren even coined a nickname for his property in Grass Valley, calling it “Uncle Mike’s Park.”

Since his retirement, he also sometimes liked to pack up his Dodge pickup truck – which had personalized license plates that read M60GUN to commemorate his gunner days in the Vietnam War – and travel down to Mexico. He would stuff the camper shell full of clothes, writing supplies, and toys, pick a town and drive there by himself, Ralph Martinez said.

“He said that the biggest reward was seeing the smiling faces of the children,” Ralph Martinez said.

Mike Martinez loved being around family and friends and getting to know new people. Adam Martinez said that one of his uncle’s greatest accomplishments was getting the entire family together for his 50th birthday.

Services for Mike Martinez will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Hooper and Weaver Mortuary in Nevada City.

How to help

An account has been set up for donations to help Mary Martinez with medical expenses for her husband, Mike Martinez, who died Wednesday at the UC Davis Burn Center.

The account number is 0439561572 at any Wells Fargo.


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