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NAPA, California - A couple married for more than 75 years died as wildfires raged across California’s wine country Sunday, engulfing their home and killing them, according to multiple reports.
Charles Rippey, 100, and Sara Rippey, 98, were found by one of their five children in the burnt remnants of their home in Napa, near Atlas Peak, The Associated Press reported. Family members said Charles Rippey appeared to be heading toward Sara Rippey’s room.
“My father certainly wouldn’t have left her,” one of the couple’s sons, 71-year-old Mike Rippey, told the AP.
Another of the couple’s sons, Chuck Rippey, told KNTV that his parents’ caregiver tried to get them out of the house. When the roof started caving in, she called Chuck Rippey.
“She went down to get my father and all the windows started to explode and (there was) smoke and heat and all that everywhere,” he told KNTV. “She just couldn’t find them.”
Mike Rippey told KPIX that his parents met as children in a small town in Wisconsin.
“He was in sixth grade and she was in fourth grade,” he told the news station. “They went to the University of Wisconsin together and have been together ever since.”
The couple celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in March, according to an announcement published by the Napa Valley Register. Charles Rippey served in Europe and Africa during World War II and went on to a career with the tire company Firestone, according to the notice. Sara Rippey was a homemaker who loved to play bridge.
The couple lived in Napa for more than 35 years.
“We kids would always talk about what it would be like if one of them died and the other was still alive,” Mike Rippey told The New York Times. “They just couldn’t be without each other. The fact that they went together is probably what they would have wanted.”
At least 17 people have been killed in the wildfires raging across California. Seventeen wildfires in seven counties have destroyed more than 2,000 homes, businesses and other structures.
The wildfires rank among the five deadliest in California history, and officials expect the death toll to rise as the scope of destruction becomes clear.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.