With flames quickly reducing the family’s material possessions to ash, Abelardo Quiroz begged his wife to save herself and two of the couple’s daughters.
The second floor of the Cascade home was black with thick, noxious smoke early June 2. But Quiroz had no intention of fleeing until 11-year-old Bianca was safe alongside her younger sisters, Maria and Giana.
“‘Jhoana, you’ve got to get yourself and the other girls out,’” Jhoana Marban, Quiroz’ wife, recalled him yelling from the top of the stairs. “’Don’t wait for me.’ He was telling me he wasn’t going to make it, to get the other girls out.”
She rushed the two girls outside and dashed back in, refusing to let her husband perish in the flames and smoke.
“When I saw him, they were crawling,” Jhoana recalled. “He was pushing Bianca. ... We dragged ourselves out. When he got out, he collapsed outside.”
Ultimately, the family of six escaped with their lives — but not much else. And while Marban praises God for their salvation, she knows the road ahead will bring all new challenges.
But the community is rising to the occasion. A fundraiser started by Dubuque-based nonprofit Resources Unite already has raised more than $4.900 for the family, the family has located an apartment and dozens of community members have pledged to donate clothes, furniture and more.
“It’s been really good,” said Josh Jasper, president and CEO of Resources Unite. “People have been donating clothes for the kiddos, being mindful that they’re going to be off for the summer. Bringing in games and tennis shoes and things like that.”
Cascade firefighters were called to the home at 521 Second Ave. SW at about 4 a.m. Sunday. Ultimately, there was about $60,000 worth of damage to the home, which Marban and Quiroz rented from Jamie and Lisa Manternach, and its contents.
To Marban, the losses can’t be so easily quantified.
“We lost everything,” she said.
She recalled waking up because of a loud bang early June 2. Marban and Quiroz initially wrote it off as their daughters being rambunctious.
After a second loud bang, Marban decided enough was enough. The girls needed to get to sleep.
But when she opened her eyes, “I saw this very bright orange (light).”
“I said, ‘The house is on fire,’” Marban said. “We jumped out of bed and opened the door. Everything was already pitch black.”
Quiroz ran for the stairs to retrieve Bianca, who has vision problems and is virtually blind without her glasses.
“That was our first concern because flames were hitting the second floor already,” Marban said.
Eventually, the family, including Marbwan’s son, 19-year-old Sebastian Diaz, who recently moved back in with the family, made it to safety. They were checked out and cleared by paramedics on scene, Marban said, though Quiroz declined an EMT’s suggestion that he be evaluated fully at a hospital.
“He was trying (to be strong for us),” Marban said.
Fire Chief Denny Green said the impact of the blaze was apparent throughout the building.
“It was up in the walls and the ceiling, and the kitchen was fully involved,” he said. “Extensive damage throughout the house.”
Green praised the family — especially the kids — for reacting quickly.
“If they hadn’t gotten out when they did, we would have some injuries, without a doubt,” he said. “(The kids) were brave and did what they were taught to do. ... The kids did a real good job getting out and going to their meeting place.”
The cause of the fire has not been determined, but it is not considered suspicious, Green said.
Jasper and Marban have known each other and worked together for years. They met when Jasper’s group was asked to “adopt” the community of Cascade for Christmas by connecting families in need with willing donors.
Marban immediately offered to translate for the area’s Spanish-speaking families.
“She has been the bridge to the Hispanic community for us in the Cascade, Farley, Monticello area,” Jasper said. “There’s an emerging Hispanic community in those communities.”
Marban’s assistance helped Resources Unite make inroads with those residents, many of whom are fearful about getting involved in certain organizations.
“She has really been great in basically vouching for us, and saying, ‘You know what? This is a trusted organization. They are here to help you,’” Jasper said.
That’s just Marban’s way, she said.
“If I see someone struggling or whatever they need, if I have to take my shoes off, I’ll give them to that person,” she said. “We all struggle. If I can help, why not?”