NAPA, Calif. (CBSNewYork) — A couple who just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary died in the Northern California wildfires.
Their son says his parents met when they were just young kids and spent most of their lives by each other’s side.
Mike Rippey is one of five children. He returned to sift through the rubble, littered with broken china and a patio set that once overlooked the beautiful hills of Napa Valley.
It’s a place where his parents perished.
“We could see by where they found his body that he was trying to get from his room to her room,” Mike said. “He never made it.”
The flames came in from a nearby mountain range and were driven by 50 mile-per-hour winds. Firefighters say the elderly couple inside didn’t stand a chance.
The blaze moved so quickly and ferociously, that firefighters say the couple inside didn’t stand a chance.
“When you have elderly people who are not as mobile, it puts on an additional level of concern,” Chief David Shew from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
Shaw said it took less than two hours for the fast moving flames to take out thousands of acres before torching the Napa retirement community, lush vineyards, and neighborhood after neighborhood.
“I don’t know what to really do from here on out,” Napa resident Victor Russe said. “It’s gonna be a day at a time sometimes an hour at a time, you know? We don’t have a life plan for this.”
For Mike, the current plan is to walk away from the tragedy with a sense of comfort, knowing his parents were together in the end.
“We often talk among each other about how either of them would deal with life without the other,” he said. “Especially for the day where the first one died and the other had to go on alone.”
Mike says his 100-year-old father, Charles, and 98-year-old mother, Sara, grew up in a small town in Wisconsin. They were together since grade school and even went to college in-state together.
They settled in Napa after Mike moved to the region about 45 years ago. Mike says his mother had a stroke and wasn’t able to move well, and that his father certainly would never have left her alone.