Husband Died Shielding Wife in California Wildfire

Elderly couple died trying to flee blaze
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2016 5:53 AM CDT
Husband Died Shielding Wife in California Wildfire
Firefighters battle a wildfire near Lake Isabella, Calif.    (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Byron McKaig was a devoted husband until the very end. The 81-year-old Anglican priest perished alongside his 90-year-old wife, Gladys, in central California's Lake Isabella wildfire last week, and a neighbor tells the Los Angeles Times that he appears to have died trying to protect his wife. Bill Johnson found their bodies next to a fence near the burning remains of their home. "They were together, like he was blocking her from the fire," says Johnson. "It made me sick because immediately I saw and knew exactly what had happened—that they were alive and ran out of this burning inferno and got stuck, and that was where they ended." Officials say the McKaigs were overcome by smoke, and they appear to have been the only people killed by the massive blaze, which destroyed around 200 homes, KPCC reports.

The fire is still only 40% contained, and authorities warn that there could be more destruction if winds blow it back toward populated areas. "There's still more threats out there," fire Chief Brian Marshall tells the AP. "This is going to go down as the most destructive wildfire in Kern County history." He says the residents of the communities surrounding Lake Isabella, including many elderly people, had little warning when the fire suddenly swept in on Thursday and some of them barely escaped with their lives. reports that the fire, which authorities hope to have fully contained by Thursday, has become so huge that the blaze and plumes of smoke are clearly visible in images from space. (One odd new tool in the study of wildfires: rattlesnakes.)

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