Husband, 100, Dies Halfway to Wife's Room in Calif. Wildfires

'They were happy right up until the last minute,' son says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2017 4:52 AM CDT
Updated Oct 11, 2017 5:26 AM CDT
Couple Wed 75 Years Dies in Calif. Wildfire
This aerial image shows a neighborhood that was destroyed by a wildfire in Santa Rosa, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.   (Nick Giblin/DroneBase via AP)

At least 17 people have been confirmed dead in the devastating wildfires raging in California —including a couple who died together after having been married for 75 years. Charles Rippey, 100, and Sara Rippey, 98, died Sunday night when a fast-moving wildfire engulfed their Napa County home. Mike Rippey, the oldest of their five children, tells ABC that his mother was paralyzed from a stroke years earlier and would never have made it out. He says his father died about halfway to her room but "even if he had made it, there was no way he was gonna leave her. So neither one of them was getting out." "They lived a long life," he says. "It was a great life and they were happy right up until the last minute." In other developments:

  • President Trump has signed a major disaster declaration for the state, where at least 115,000 acres have burned, CNN reports. Forecasters say that with strong winds and no rain forecast this week, conditions will be extremely challenging for firefighters battling 17 large fires across California.

  • State Rep. Mike Thompson said he believes the wine country blazes will be the "worst fire disaster in California history" after seeing the devastation in northern California on Tuesday, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, which has a list of the evacuation orders.
  • Most of the fatalities were in Sonoma County, where large parts of the city of Santa Rosa burned. The death toll could rise sharply: The Los Angeles Times reports that sheriff's officials in the county have found only 45 of the 200 people reported missing since Sunday night.
  • Fire officials say the "unprecedented" spread of the northern California fires was caused by wind gusts of up to 60mph Sunday night, the Guardian reports. "We see 20 to 30 new fires a day, it’s just that these winds really caused these fires to grow rapidly," says Cal Fire rep Heather Williams.
  • Some first responders lost their own homes to fire while they were fighting the blazes and evacuating residents, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. They include Mill Valley Fire Chief Tom Welch, who lost his Santa Rosa home.
  • Michael Honig, chairman of the Napa Valley Vintners trade association, tells the AP that at least five wineries have been destroyed and nine others damaged, and the group has yet to hear from wineries in some hard-hit areas. "That's been the biggest problem—the information—you can't access these areas," he says. "We don't have a good idea of how the vineyards have been impacted."
(More California wildfires stories.)

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