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Gonzalo 'Chalo' Quesada Dies After Being Evacuated From Marshall Fire Twice

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Family members say smoke inhalation likely contributed to the death of Gonzalo "Chalo" Quesada, a 58-year-old man who was bed-ridden when the Marshall Fire ripped through his neighborhood Thursday.

Marshall Fire Hospice Death 2 (Chalo, GoFundMe)
Gonzalo 'Chalo' Quesada (credit: GoFundMe)

"It was maybe 10 or 15 minutes that we had total to get Chalo out of the house from the minute that we knew what was going on," said Chrissy Miller, a long-time family friend.

Miller was visiting the Quesada family on Thursday. She considers Chalo a brother and was in town because she knew he didn't have long to live.

"We were having a really good day," she reflected.

CBS4's Jamie Leary interviews family of Gonzalo 'Chalo' Quesada (credit: CBS)

While Chalo was on his way out, his wife, Michelle, said he fought hard through every step. It was nearly 11 years ago he was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia. It impacted his speech and fine motor skills and for the last seven years, Chalo has been non-verbal. Still, his family included him in everything, and Michelle never left his side.

"We've gotten two kids through college now. My daughter's in college now. He's gotten to meet his grandson. He's met a lot of milestones that we never thought he could," said Michelle Scott-Quesada.

Thursday's fire hit without any warning. The smoke was thick and neighbors' homes were already on fire by the time Miller was able to flag down a first responder.

"I kept screaming and at one point they saw me, and they told me to evacuate and I said 'we need help,'" said Miller.

They managed to evacuate Chalo to nearby Avista Adventist Hospital only to be told they needed to evacuate again. With a busy ER and a NICU, the family was told Chalo was not their first priority.

The hospital was filling with smoke and his family took matters into their own hands and called Chalo's hospice provider, Berkley Palliative Care and Hospice, which found him a room in Denver.

"They gave me direction to get him as comfortable as possible because he was gasping for breath," said Michelle.

Meanwhile, Chalo's son, a member of the Colorado National Guard, rushed through literal flames to help his mother evacuate Chalo a second time.

"I was with my best friend… we made sure he was still breathing gave him medication while we rushed down to Denver, down U.S. 36, it was a rough ride for him, but he made it."

The next morning, Chalo passed away. The family was told it was likely the smoke inhalation combined with the stress of the evacuations which contributed to his death.

His family says they are looking at the years he hung on as a blessing and hope his story reminds others that the community as a whole has suffered an enormous tragedy.

(credit: CBS)

"People have lost everything as we have. They have nothing. People left with the clothes on their back, their kids and animals and a car, if they were able to get out," said Michelle.

RELATED: Fires Devastate Boulder County: How To Help

"We hope people continue to give. While there is giving in the short-term, these people are going to be affected for months, for years. So we hope that people are generous for the long haul," said Hannah Quesada, Chalo's daughter-in-law.

The family is fundraising to help cover losses. The Quesada home was in the heart of the fire and is a total loss.

Saturday night, heavy equipment was being towed into neighborhoods to clear debris. The Quesada family believes it will be at least another 24 hours before they can access their home on Mohawk Circle to assess the damage.

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