Be aware, you are about to read a tragic story of a former neighbor/resident, Jason Cassem, whose family could use your help.
Jason was born and lived in Martinez for several years before moving to Concord where he attended school at Ygnacio Valley High.
The Cassems, Jason, his wife Melissa and two kids, moved away believing they had purchased their dream home in Drum Forebay, near Alta, California in 2022. However, since moving there at the beginning of fire season, they have had to be evacuated more than once due to fires burning within three miles of their home.  
Then this winter storms arrived with snowbanks towering up to the second story. On the day that Jason passed away, March 29, 2023, it had been raining and snowing. They had been without power all day except for their generator that had been running for several hours.
As the family prepared to watch a movie that night before going to bed, Jason decided to go outside to refuel the generator before the gas ran out. The snow had built up a snow “cave” around the generator bear box house. He dug an entrance through the snow to get into the generator room.
A short time had passed since he had gone outside before Melissa realized that Jason had not yet returned. Worried, she walked out into the snow calling for him. She brought a flashlight and walked to the generator to find a large snowbank that had collapsed trapping Jason inside.
She immediately tried to dig him out. The snowbank was extremely deep and the opening at the top was very small. She found Jason unconscious in the snow “cave” and started performing CPR, but had to take breaks and climb back to the top of the opening for fresh air. But with each trip, more snow would cave in on them. She could not get out. She had to keep remaking that hole because snow was falling from the roof and closing the opening.
She started screaming “Please help call 911” hoping a neighbor would hear her. When the two children, Geoffrey, 10, Juliana,11, heard their moms cry for help, they ran outside dressed in pajamas, still wet from having just completed showers.
With little reception the daughter was finally able to call 911. But due to their remote location, the roads were not yet plowed. It took emergency crews some time to reach the home.
In the meantime, the fire dispatchers stayed on the line with the kids instructing them to grab pots and pans from the kitchen and dig through the snow to get to their parents. An off-duty firefighter who is a neighbor got word of what was happening and quickly responded to the home to help.
Finally, crews reached their home and performed CPR, but unfortunately, Jason did not make it. When the snow caved in right next to the generator with Jason under it all, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Melissa was also starting to suffer the effects of the generator’s odorless fumes. If it wasn’t for her children calling 911, and their continuous efforts to keep the hole open for fresh air, they would have lost both parents that night.  The kids are heroes for the efforts to save their parents. 
Melissa and the kids are beyond devastated. Their lives have been changed forever and the emotional trauma they endured will be with them throughout their lifetimes.
Jason was a former employee and dear friend of one of our longtime advertisers at Diablo Gazette, AMPM Tree Service who notified us of this tragedy.
A GoFundMe account has been organized to help the family financially as they grieve his death.This small mountain community relies on the kindness of its neighbors. But this tragic event is something even those with years of experience living up there can imagine.
Any help for Melissa and her two kids is greatly appreciated.