Our hearts continue to go out to the people of Maui, Hawaii who recently suffered catastrophic wildfires. The death toll currently stands at 106 lives, and is expected to climb, making it the deadliest US wildfire in over a century.
The story of one of the identified victims is now touching hearts, especially among animal lovers: Franklin Trejos, who died trying to protect a golden retriever from the flames.
According to NBC News, Trejos, 68, lived in Lahaina with couple Geoff Bogar and Shannon Weber-Bogar, his friends for over 30 years. Shannon described Trejos as being outgoing and friendly.
“I would get so irritated with him because we’d go to the store and he’d have to stop and say hi to everyone and ask how they’re doing, and their families,” she told NBC News. “Just the friendliest guy you would ever meet.”
As the wildfires began to spread, Trejos and Bogar reportedly stepped up to help evacuate people from their neighborhood. They then tried to save their house, but as the fires approached they had to escape.
The two men tried to escape in their own cars. Bogar’s car wouldn’t start, so he crawled to safety, suffering numerous burns. According to AP, a police patrol found him and he was taken to the hospital.
Bogar returned the next day to look for Trejos, but found a tragic sight: Trejos was dead in his car… along with Bogar’s three-year-old golden retriever, Sam.
Trejos had gone back into their home to get Sam, a dog he loved as if it was his own. And by the way Trejos and Sam were positioned in the car, it was clear that, in their final moments, Trejos tried to protect the dog from the approaching flames.
“He must have seen what was happening, just crawled into the hatchback with him and laid down on top of him,” Weber-Bogar, who was out of town caring for her mother at the time of the fire, told NBC News.
“There’s more of Sam left than there was of Frank.”
This heroic final deed only made the loss of Trejos even more devastating for the couple: Weber-Bogar says he came to live with them “like a stray puppy” and was like an uncle to the couple’s two children.
According to AP, Trejos helped Weber-Bogar with her seizures when her husband couldn’t and provided a lot of love and laughter to their family.
“It’s weird to wake up without him,” Weber-Bogar told NBC News. “There’s no way to say what a great guy he is.”
“God took a really good man,” she told AP.
Trejos is one of the handful people who have been identified as victims in the wildfires. Other victims include a 79-year-old grandfather and four members of the same family. Search teams are currently working to find and identify the bodies, and we will no doubt hear more stories of the victims in the days and weeks ahead.
But Trejos’ story has especially struck a chord with people, especially animal lovers, who were moved that in his final moments he tried to sacrifice himself to save a dog. Many heartfelt tributes have been posted to him online.
How tragic — rest in peace to Franklin Trejos, thank you for trying to save this beautiful dog in your final moments 💔😢
Please share this story in his memory and keep all the victims of the Maui wildfires in your thoughts.