Originally published Aug. 6, 2012.
Fight? Or flight?
None of us knows which we will choose in a moment of tragedy - until it strikes.
Three Huntington men were faced with the question around 2 a.m. on Monday, July 23, when they saw their neighbor's home engulfed in flames.
Their answer: Fight.
That night, Mike Malies, Robin Hale and Rufus McKee, all neighbors of the Jacquay family, helped Heidi Jacquay and three of her daughters escape from their burning home on High Street in Huntington.
Malies, a disabled diesel mechanic and former volunteer fireman, says his fiancé saw the Jacquays' home burning when she looked out the kitchen window.
He remembers her screaming, "Tim and Heidi's house is on fire!"
Malies says he didn't have time to think. He immediately ran to the house, wearing nothing but a pair of pants.
He broke out a window air conditioner and saw two of the Jacquays' four daughters sleeping on couches in the living room.
"I pulled Lyndsee out, and then I heard Marissa scream from upstairs," he says.
Hale - who had spotted the fire while working in his garage -went into the Jacquays' living room through the window and helped Makinzee Jacquay escape. Meanwhile, Malies went to the back of the house to help Heidi and Marissa Jacquay get downstairs and out of the home through their laundry room, shouting for them to follow the sound of his voice.
"Everyone was asleep," Malies says. "Before we got there, they didn't know the house was on fire."
He says the flames were so high they were shooting over his own roof.
He says he doesn't know if he would have been able to get Heidi and Marissa out of the home without Hale's help in getting Makinzee out of the living room.
Hale had immediately called 911 when he saw the flickering flames at his neighbors' house.
He remembers running across the street to the Jacquays' home, where Malies was already removing the window air conditioning unit from the window.
When Hale saw Makinzee in the living room, he says, "You just think of your own kids." Even though he thought the "smoke had already gotten to her," he says, he went in after her, "scooped her up," and saved her from what Hale says was a wall of flames from the ground up.
"When you see someone helpless - you do something," Hale says.
He says he's thankful that McKee was present to help him with Makinzee; Hale says he was able to hand her to McKee and get out of the living room in the nick of time.
As Makinzee and Hale escaped the living room and Heidi and Marissa got out through the rear of the home, Malies saw the meter box was exploding, causing the fire to become even more intense.
McKee was asleep in his bedroom when he says he was stirred awake by a whistling noise. When he looked out his window, he says he saw an orange glow and he took off after it.
"I didn't even put shoes on," he says.
He remembers the smell of the smoke was overwhelmingly strong, and he says it was amazing how fast the fire was spreading.
"As soon as everyone got out, the fire moved in," he says.
Tim Jacquay, the father of the family, and daughter Sierra Jacquay were not home at the time of the fire. Tim was working third shift at Wayne Metals in Markle, and Sierra was sleeping over at a friend's house.
The only family member that did not survive the fire was the family dog, Ollie.
Malies says the dog was trapped in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Malies, Hale, and McKee all say they feel terrible that they could not save the family pet.
The Jacquay family is still waiting to hear the final determination on the cause of the fire, although it has been ruled accidental. They are now staying in a duplex rental home, free of charge, thanks to Heidi's brother.
"We are all sleeping in one bedroom, but all that matters is that we have a roof over our head," Tim says.
Nearly everything they own is gone, and the few things they hope are salvageable cannot be taken out of the house for another few weeks, says Malies.
Even without furniture to sit on in their living room, the family of six seems surprisingly happy and calm.
"It is mind-boggling, the outpour of support we've received from the community," says Tim.
The family says at last count they had 45 large trash bags full of donated clothes and a washer, dryer, stove and microwave, among many other donated items.
"It's overwhelming," says Tim.
They say the girls' school supply lists have been covered "two times over."
The family is obviously grateful, but none more than Tim.
"I don't know if I would have the courage that those men (Mike, Robin and Rufus) did," he says. "I could give them each $10 million and it wouldn't be enough to repay them.
"Did someone send me angels?" he quietly asks. "I don't know."
Tim says he firmly believes that if Malies, Hale and McKee wouldn't have helped his family, "it would only be me and her (Sierra) here now," pointing to his oldest daughter.
It took the fire department hours to get the fire completely out, but Tim says the report notes that the outside flames were contained within 15 minutes. An electrical shortage on the front porch is the suspected cause of the fire, but the state won't determine the final cause for up to three more weeks.
The Jacquay family was renting the home and did not have renter's insurance, meaning all their belongings that were destroyed by the fire are gone and will not be replaced.
Incredibly, Tim and Heidi say they found their daughters' baby pictures in tubs in their garage.
They also found the family cat in the house on Wednesday, two days after the fire.
They believe the cat, Husky, wasn't in the house when it caught on fire. He is staying with family friends until the family finds a new permanent residence.
That is a search that Tim says they will be selective about.
"Having a place to stay for now allows us to be picky. We don't have to take the first place that pops up," he says.
The Jacquay girls have been "super resilient," says Tim.
To help them, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 85 is hosting a benefit on Sunday, Aug. 12 at noon.
The post will offer a hog roast, bake sale and silent auction with proceeds helping the fire victims.
"The complete outpouring of support is amazing," says Tim.
Malies says his garage is already half full of donations for the family, and there are sure to be many more.
Complete caption: Tim Jacquay (back row) gathers his family, including (second row) daughter, Sierra, 15; wife Heidi; and daughters Marissa, 14; and (front row) Makinzee, 7; and Lyndsee, 12, around a wooden plaque that commemorates Ollie, the family dog who did not make it out of their recent house fire. The plaque was made by neighbor Mike Malies, who assisted Heidi, Lyndsee and Marissa in escaping from the burning house.