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75 Years Married, WWII Vet and Wife Die in California's Atlas Peak Fire


An elderly Napa County, Calif. couple perished when their home caught fire this week and they were unable to escape the fast moving flames.  

Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife Sara, 99, had just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary earlier this year. 

Chuck Rippey, one of the couple's sons, told television station KNTV the couple's caregiver ran out of time as she tried to get them out of the house.

"Before she knew it, the roof was caving in," he said. "So it was very fast, very fast."

Rippey said the caregiver called him as the fire ravaged the house.

"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 said. "She just couldn't find them."

The Rippeys had lived in the Silverado Residential Community for the past 40 years. 

"The only thing worse would have been if one survived without the other," the Rippey's granddaughter, Ruby Gibney told television station KTVU-TV.

Charles served in World War II, rising to the rank of captain with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served in Europe and North Africa.  After the war, he was an executive with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company until 1978, when he went to work for Norris Industries located in Brea, California.

They had attended the University of Wisconsin together. They were married March 20, 1942.  

Charles almost made it to Sara's side with his walker.  His body was found just a few feet away from hers.

"It hit so fast and they just didn't have a chance," said Mike Rippey, the couple's second son.  "My mother had a stroke and she couldn't move very well at all and my father certainly never would have left her."

Authorities said they are the only two confirmed deaths in the county related to the wildfires.

Chuck Rippey said there are no plans to rebuild the couple's home. 

"Without them, it doesn't mean a thing,'' he said. "It's gone. They're gone.''

Sources:  Los Angeles Times, Napa Valley Register, KNTV, & KTVU-TV

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