Wildfires kill couple married for 75 years, leave 23 dead and 285 missing

NAPA, Calif. — Nothing could separate Charles and Sara Rippey. Not war. Not even a deadly California wildfire that engulfed their house.

They spent 89 years together, including their final moments in their Napa home, son Mike Rippey told KPIX. Charles was 100; Sara was 98.

The couple’s children marveled at their parents’ longevity, both in life and in marriage.

“We often talked among ourselves about how either one of them would deal with life without the other,” Mike Rippey said. “Especially my father. He loved my mother.”

Charles and Sara Rippey were among the 23 people killed by California’s raging wildfires, which are still roaring across the state with no end in sight.

In many areas, the smoke is thick and the sky is orange. And the families of more than 500 people are still searching for their missing loved ones.

At least 285 people remain missing as the wildfires wiped out communities and scorched 170,000 acres. About 3,500 structures have been destroyed.

The Rippeys’ love affair started early — Charles was in the sixth grade, and Sara was in the fourth grade, their son Mike said.

After Charles went to fight in World War II, he returned and had five children with his beloved, Rippey said. They recently celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary.

Mike Rippey said he believes his father died trying to save his mother. Charles Rippey’s body was found in the charred remains of the hallway just outside where his wife was sleeping.

“From where they found his body, he was trying to get from his room to her room,” he said. “He never made it. Even if he had gotten there, he wouldn’t have been able to get her out. … And there is no way he would have left.”

More than 600 people have been reported missing, but 315 of them have been located, authorities said.

Spotty cellphone service has severely hampered relatives’ ability to connect. Sonoma County deputies continue to search for 285 missing people, officials said.

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