News World California fires: Couple married 75 years among the 21 dead
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California fires: Couple married 75 years among the 21 dead

California fires
Flames overtake a house as fires continue to whip through the region. Photo: Getty
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A elderly couple, married for 75 years, are among the 21 dead and hundreds missing as fast-moving fires sweep California, destroying thousands of homes.

Officials confirmed that Charles Rippey, 100, and wife Sara, were those claimed by the fires.

Mr and Mrs Rippey’s eldest son, Charles, told ABC News in the US that his mother was paralysed since having a stroke about five years ago.

“There was no way she was getting out of this fire,” he said.

“And my father was sleeping in a different room, and we found him halfway to her room. And so he never made it 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.”

Charles Rippey’s brother Mike added: “They lived a long life. It was a great life and they were happy right up until the last minute.”

California fire Rippey dead
Charles and Sara Rippey. Photo: Twitter

Eleven of the deaths occurred in Sonoma County, in the so-called Tubbs fire that has scorched 11,000 hectares.

The number of people confirmed dead in that fire makes it the sixth deadliest in the state’s history.

Hundreds of people are missing, but Sheriff Robert Giordano told reporters that some of the missing could be new evacuees who have not been able to contact family members or friends.

Mr Giordano said that 73 mobile phone towers were down, hampering communications in the area.

Of the 620 people reported missing in Sonoma County, 110 have been found safe, the sheriff said.

Evacuations are still under way as firefighters work to get the Tubbs blaze under control.

“If you have a place to go, go,” the sheriff said, urging residence in the impacted areas to get out.

“The less people we have to evacuate the better we are off.”

The Tubbs fire is just one of 22 large blazes that firefighters are battling across the state.

California fires
A collapsed garage over a car in a destroyed home in Santa Rosa, California. Photo: EPA

 

 

 

The fires have scorched about 69,000 hectares, including entire hillside neighbourhoods of stand-alone houses.

Conditions were described as “very active on several fronts”.

Strong winds have fanned the flames for days, and the forecast calls for a shift in the winds on Wednesday evening as well as an increase in speed and less humidity.

Gusts of up to 80km/h and 10 per cent humidity are forecast for later on Wednesday and into Thursday for the region.

“The potential for new fires that could grow exponentially as these fires did in such a short time period is there,” Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said.

The group said at least four wineries suffered “total or very significant losses” and at least nine reported damage.

– with AAP