October 13, 2017

Husband, 70, and wife, 65, trapped by the wildfire, survive by getting in a swimming pool (and freezing for 6 hours).

They waited as long as they could before getting in the water: "As they stood at the edge of the pool, the neighbors’ house caught fire. A big tree next to the pool went up in flames. The railroad ties framing the concrete steps leading to the pool ignited."
They submerged themselves in the blackened, debris-filled water. They had grabbed T-shirts to hold over their faces to protect themselves from embers when they surfaced for air. They moved to the part of the pool farthest from the house. John was worried about having to tread water, or hanging on to the side, which could be dangerous with all the burning objects flying around. Blessedly, the pool had no deep end. It was about 4 feet deep all the way across. To stay warm, they held each other. They stood back to back. They spoke about their deep love for each other and their family.
Fabulous. Beautiful. But they should have evacuated sooner! They got into bed for the night when they knew the fire was only 11 miles away. Their daughter in San Francisco had called to urge them to evacuate, but all they did was put some valuables — including 2 carefully wrapped Dale Chihuly bowls — in the truck.  When the fire arrived, they had no path to drive the truck out (though they tried, with not just the truck but a Mercedes-Benz car).

The whole neighborhood burned down, including their house, which was the kind of house you'd invent if you were writing a fictional story of an old couple stuck in this predicament:
Their mountaintop home was built like a boat with small rooms on 11 levels. It was filled with dozens of John’s paintings. Each room was designed to remind them of places they’d encountered during their travels. One had tatami mats, an idea from a restaurant in Bangkok. Their bedroom was inspired by a house they’d rented on Thailand’s Ko Samui Island. Their expansive decks, the site of countless parties over nearly four decades, offered spectacular views of the hills.
Maybe some movie company can rebuild the house for them, exactly as it was, film a movie about their story in it, and then give it to them. It would have to be on a different mountain though.

104 comments:

tim in vermont said...

They should build the house and burn it again for the final scene.

sdharms said...

Now why should someone rebuild their house for them? Yes it's a beautiful story and there are others and there are probably other people who cannot rebuild they made a mistake they will have to cope with it they have family they have resources.

Laslo Spatula said...

I had to look up "Dale Chihuly bowls'.

Had nothing to do with Cthulhu.

Disappointed.

I am Laslo.

David said...

I have been wondering why there were so many fatalities in these fires. Complacency seems a good place to begin the inquiry.

Darrell said...

No pictures of the house exist? Odd, if it were so special.

Gahrie said...

They survived because they didn't panic.

Michael said...

Darrell
Their belongings were all burned. See?

David Baker said...

Thank God it didn't be come a boiling cauldron of chlorine.

Flat Tire said...

Our ranch was one of the first ones hit. Evacuated grandchildren and my two kids and I stayed and fought it. Saved some, lost some. We always knew this would happen and have tried to manage the land with that in mind. Farmed land and grazed pastures with access to the highway so getting trapped was not the problem. There are so many people in this area like the two in the article. Fools. I wonder if they'll show up at the next county meeting and scream about the horrors of farming, clearing, grazing, etc.

Sebastian said...

Freaking out family, possibly making firefighters risk their lives on a rescue: yeah, beautiful.

MadisonMan said...

It does read like a screenplay. Glad they survived. Now they don't have to worry about things cluttering up their lives.

Laslo Spatula said...

Take that, Swedish Art of Death Cleaning.

I am Laslo.

Ralph L said...

I'm surprised there was enough oxygen.

Why didn't the daughter come and drag them out?

karlpopperghost said...

http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-napa-couple-20171012-story.html

Inseparable for 75 years, husband and wife Charles and Sara Rippey died in the Napa fire

"The Rippeys grew up in the small town of Hartford, Wis. They went to high school together, to prom, then studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Soon after they married in 1942, Charles, better known as “Peach” — a nickname his mother gave him as a child because of his rosy cheeks — went off to war. His deployments took him to North Africa, Italy, France and Germany, leading a company of 200 black soldiers.

When he returned home, he was hired as an engineer at Firestone in Akron, Ohio. The company promoted him over the years and assigned him to posts in distant places, such as Sweden and Argentina.

Sara stayed home and raised five children...."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

You want to get that movie made? The producer is gonna need a massage.

The Cracker Emcee Activist said...

I'm sure this is unfair, but they kind of sound like pretentious douches. Nevertheless, that isn't a capital crime and I'm glad they made it.

zipity said...

"Maybe some movie company can rebuild the house for them, exactly as it was, film a movie about their story in it, and then give it to them. It would have to be on a different mountain though."

OK, but they both have to sleep with Harvey Weinstein.

Oso Negro said...

They will have to cast the couple a lot younger or the producer won’t be interested in molesting the actress

gspencer said...

Clever solution for what should never have been a problem.

"They got into bed for the night when they knew the fire was only 11 miles away."

11 miles may be a good distance between you and a fire. But with something like that I'd want more information such as the present & predicted wind direction. And act accordingly. Wouldn't even be trying to sleep that night.

As pointed out, there was no need for them ever to have been in this situation. The fire didn't just spring upon them from 11 miles away. It was moving towards them. Even if they had no other source of information other than their own eyes, they could see the fire moving towards them (the home had mountaintop views).

What did the other neighbors down the road do?

Fernandinande said...

built like a boat with small rooms on 11 levels.

You can see their house here - it looks like a normal house.

Owen said...

People in Colorado face a similar problem: dry climate, lots of resin-laden timber (much of it inaccessible to forestry or "protected" from such thinning and management), lots of lightning strikes. And in the Front Range, the topology is that of a chimney. And a rich hippie's dream: build a house at the top of a ridge with a fantastic view. And a long winding access road through the trees. It's awesome, man.

Until the fire comes. Then you get snuffed out like a squirrel who nested in the flue of a fireplace.

urbane legend said...

What Sebastian said.

They spoke about their deep love for each other and their family.

Considering how close they came to dying, they don't appear to have that much love for that family.

rhhardin said...

In hell you're uncomfortable all the time. It's like being a feminist.

tim in vermont said...

There is a weird house there that looks reminiscent of an Arleigh Burke cruiser. Scan around.

Darrell said...

Darrell
Their belongings were all burned. See?


Sure, Michael. And no neighbor ever took a picture. And no relative was ever sent a picture. Nothing was ever posted online. And nothing to the cloud. Or a phone account that could be recovered for the article. And nothing at the property tax office. And . . .

Laslo Spatula said...

It seems you get a better write-up when you're rich and your wonderful house burns down than when you're poor and lose your mobile home to a tornado.

I am Laslo.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Oso Negro said...
They will have to cast the couple a lot younger or the producer won’t be interested in molesting the actress

Based on the pictures accompanying the article they're already lying about their ages.

Larry J said...

gspencer said...
"They got into bed for the night when they knew the fire was only 11 miles away."

11 miles may be a good distance between you and a fire. But with something like that I'd want more information such as the present & predicted wind direction. And act accordingly. Wouldn't even be trying to sleep that night.


I was living in Colorado Springs back in 2012 when a major wildfire broke out on the west side of town. At first, the firefighters had things under control until a microburst delivered very strong winds. In a matter of minutes, over 200 homes were set ablaze. I watched it happen from my deck about 4 miles away. Fires can sometimes move very quickly and in unpredictable ways. I didn't get a lot of sleep that week.

tommyesq said...

11 miles may seem like it is a long ways off, but what value do you add by staying? Were they personally going to fend off the flames?

Fernandinande said...

Laslo Spatula said...
It seems you get a better write-up when you're rich and your wonderful house burns down than when you're poor and lose your mobile home to a tornado.


Their house wasn't unusual or interesting, but there were unusual houses nearby - so why them?

Laslo Spatula said...

The ending would be better if she stayed alive by floating on a door in the pool, but the door could only hold one, so the guy died.

I think that would be a great ending for a movie.

I am Laslo.

Fernandinande said...

Oh yeah, the pool thing.

EDH said...

Maybe some movie company can rebuild the house for them, exactly as it was, film a movie about their story in it, and then give it to them.

Every love story needs a great theme song.

It's coming closer
The flames are lickin' my body
Please won't you help me
I feel like I'm slipping away
It's hard to breath
And my chest is a-heaving
Lord have mercy,
I'm burning a hole where I lay

'Cause your kisses lift me higher
Like the sweet song of a choir
You light my morning sky
With burning love
With burning love
Ah, ah, burning love
I'm just a hunk, a hunk of burning love
Just a hunk, a hunk of burning love

Laslo Spatula said...

"Their house wasn't unusual or interesting, ..."

"Their mountaintop home was built like a boat with small rooms on 11 levels. It was filled with dozens of John’s paintings. Each room was designed to remind them of places they’d encountered during their travels. One had tatami mats, an idea from a restaurant in Bangkok. Their bedroom was inspired by a house they’d rented on Thailand’s Ko Samui Island. Their expansive decks, the site of countless parties over nearly four decades, offered spectacular views of the hills."

Sounds kinda wonderful to me.

I am Laslo.

Bob Ellison said...

65?

That picture says otherwise.

Bob Boyd said...

It's a shame people wait for a forest fire to do something like this together.

Bob Ellison said...

Melted phone, old lovers, freeze or burn, this story has enough shit to choke an elephant. Nice try at a movie.

Ann Althouse said...

@karlpopperghost

I saw that story the other day and chose not to blog it. It got press but why? A couple was a couple, in the same place when disaster struck, and found no escape and died together. We don't know the details of that experience because they died, so we hear only the details that would be in any other obituary: where the were born and grew up, how they met, the children they had, etc.

Laslo Spatula said...

She ran calling Wildfire.

I am Laslo.

SDaly said...

Best thing about the post is that you have a tag for "Dale Chihuly".

They thought they were safe, but anxiety was ever present; the fire was 11 miles away maybe it wouldn't reach them....

A lot of people in Southern California are having those same thought from wildfire Weinstein.

rehajm said...

A classic tale: Hippie dippies make a bad decision then Hippie dippies make a lucky decision that turns out well.

Ann Althouse said...

"You can see their house here - it looks like a normal house."

I don't see their house there. It's an aerial view covered by trees.

I tried Google street view, but it's not on street view.

rehajm said...

Insuring the Chihulys would have been a good decision. Hope they did that.

Laslo Spatula said...

I think this is the time when it is mentioned how many people in Chicago die by gunfire.

I am Laslo.

Ann Althouse said...

Okay, I looked around for a house and did a closeup. I see what might be the house. It's many-sided with lots of peaked roofs. You have to make inferences based on looking only at the roof. It's not too "normal."

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Now why should someone rebuild their house for them? Yes it's a beautiful story and there are others and there are probably other people who cannot rebuild they made a mistake they will have to cope with it they have family they have resources.

Was watching Spanish reporting on Univision the other day and I feel a lot sorrier for those poor people who lived butt to gut in little immigrant neighborhoods and lost everything. They had so little and now have nothing. Maybe it's a character flaw but I don't feel particularly moved by some rich pretentious people living in their precious little art enclave on a fire-prone mountaintop.

Bob Ellison said...

"...John grabbed towels and gently wrapped two Dale Chihuly glass bowls that he inherited from his mother and put them in his Toyota Tacoma truck..."

Were there any Snickers bars in the glove compartment, or did you go with OakWheat Tender Natural Granolas and take the Nissan instead?

Ron Winkleheimer said...

They sound like the kind of people who can't imagine anything bad happening to them, because nothing bad has ever happened to them.

I'm reminded of a line the character of Uncle Phil voices in an episode of Fresh Prince. He is worrying about the kids ability to weather the hardships life is going to throw at them and points out that they have never even had a cavity.

Ann Althouse said...

"Best thing about the post is that you have a tag for "Dale Chihuly"."

I created that tag today and applied it retrospectively. I knew I had old stories.

Actually, there's one more. I have to restore and image to get it right.

Paddy O said...



The trouble with evacuations is that fires like this can move unimaginably fast. Eleven miles is a long way away in our sense of space. And we've gotten in a mindset that emergency services will protect us.

I've been in evacuation zones, and didn't evacuate. Family reasons, among others, but it also involved a lot of diligence and getting ready, watching and listening, keeping a look out. We also had a fireman for a neighbor, and that helped. If you're not going to evacuate you have to stay vigilant. And even then, nature isn't on our side, and risks don't always work out.

Flat tire, glad you're safe and that you were able to save some of your property.

I've not read a huge amount on the fires, but no where I looked suggests a cause. Arson? Errant campfire? It's almost always one of these two in fires like these.

Paddy O said...

Levels doesn't mean floors. Like Kramer described.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I have been wondering why there were so many fatalities in these fires. Complacency seems a good place to begin the inquiry.

My daughter lives in this area and there is a fire about 10 miles from her home....contained for now. Her in-laws have been evacuated already. Safe...for now, we pray. They have a plan to get out but the logistics of moving around in that area are difficult at best.

The area is very congested with only a few highways (the 101)going through it. On a good day the normal commute traffic can be wall to wall, backed up for miles. Much of the area is quite rural, with winding 2 lane roads some of which don't really go anywhere but out further into the hillsides. If you don't know the back roads it is easy to get completely lost. People don't realize how rural this area is. Should everyone try to evacuate at one time, it would be impossible.

How the fatalities happened is not stated (to my knowledge) but it would be difficult to try to race away from the fires in your car when you are at a standstill on the roads and the fires are racing towards and over you. This and complacency plus a stubborn refusal by many to evacuate and leave their stuff.

We have some clients who are also threatened and they have a big problem with their calves and other livestock. Not enough trailers or any way to move them or a place to move them to. We pray for them too.

Wilbur said...

"John was worried about having to tread water, or hanging on to the side, which could be dangerous with all the burning objects flying around. Blessedly, the pool had no deep end."

They'd lived there "nearly four decades" and the man didn't know how deep the pool was?

mockturtle said...

I've not read a huge amount on the fires, but no where I looked suggests a cause. Arson? Errant campfire? It's almost always one of these two in fires like these.

I've read that at least some of the fires were started by power lines downed by wind.

Owen said...

Nature doesn't love us. And if we live in beautiful places we can start to believe that she does. We are really just talking to ourselves at that point; and to our realtors; who tell us this is the coolest place ever.

In California I speculate there has been an extraordinary outbreak of this kind of self-flattery. Not just in Napa with a wildfire, but with Oroville with a dam that very nearly blew out and would have killed thousands in moments, and all of it eminently preventable if the duly appointed authorities had had a clue and some guts, but were instead swept up in Climate Change and parochial/political calculation of water management. And beyond Napa and Oroville, there are trains to nowhere and the need to drive "dirty power" from the grid and much, much more.

I wish these people well but there is no way I would live in California now.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

They'd lived there "nearly four decades" and the man didn't know how deep the pool was?

I think it was a neighbors pool.

traditionalguy said...

Overnight the winds of flames took over everything like Tokyo circa Curtis LaMay days.They are courageous and smart folks.

rhhardin said...

Phlogiston caused the fires. That's what it does.

MaxedOutMama said...

I read this story previously. My reaction was one of complete sympathy for the ordeal they went through (and that of their family - not knowing). But they survived.

I did feel some reaction against the newspaper for choosing to print THIS story instead of stories about all those who lost everything and are now destitute. I guess the pictures were compelling, but normally I am accustomed to a public reaction in disasters that focuses upon those we need to help. These people needed immediate assistance, but they are not among the many who are now in desperate circumstances. It did aggravate me.

I have other suspicions about why this couple were featured, but I won't go into it right now. I do think it says something not so favorable about the local society, though.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Instead of these wineries on fire - It's too bad Hillaywood isn't on fire. For reals.
Leftwing theocracy up in flames. 'Be a shame.

rhhardin said...

I've read that at least some of the fires were started by power lines downed by wind.

A power imbalance.

rhhardin said...

When poor people are wiped out, it takes only a week to recover. It's the rich that struggle.

reader said...

During the 2007 fires an Escondido couple survived the fire by spending three hours in their pool. We evacuated early to the coast for that fire because I wanted to make sure we had a place to stay. But the pool idea has always stayed with me just in case.

Owen said...

Paddy O: "The trouble with evacuations is that fires like this can move unimaginably fast. Eleven miles is a long way away in our sense of space. And we've gotten in a mindset that emergency services will protect us."

This. We forget how explosively fast a fire can move. A fire is in fact a proto-explosion: a chemical reaction just below that all-consuming flashpoint. When you have got DECADES of timber or other organic fuel piled up, and lots of OXYGEN (thanks, wind: and once it has begun, a self-inducing wind, i.e. firestorm) you expect a fire to progress like the Jehovah's Witnesses, from door to door? NO.

Dust Bunny Queen: about the traffic jams on highways. I just have to shudder. Imagine a jam on a highway with thousands of people stuck in cars. Cars that are FULL of fuel that has been painstakingly designed to ignite easily. Every gallon of which is enough to incinerate an acre or more. And we think there will be a magical exit? Too. Many. Miraculous. Escape. Movies.

Thanks, Harvey Weinstein!

(Yes, I had to get that in).

Big Mike said...

Here's an exercise for everyone. Think about how far away 11 miles is, and ask yourself whether you'd be ready to evacuate when the fire reached there. Against that, the couple had to think about the road out and whether that could be cut off, and based on the Google map view linked by Fernandinande (8:51) they did next to nothing to protect their home from fire -- the wooded area comes right up to the house and there's no clear space to act as a firebreak.

rhhardin said...

To stay warm, they held each other. They stood back to back. They spoke about their deep love for each other and their family.

They were making the beast with two fronts.

Rick said...

They had grabbed T-shirts to hold over their faces to protect themselves from embers when they surfaced for air.

Cut up a hose so you can breathe while remaining fully submerged. Put the t-shirts over the end to cool the incoming air. Throw something in the water you can use to keep submerged - like a barbell you can hook your feet under.

If possible find something like an inverted pot to pull air under and keep it cool. This is difficult because you can't get any large amount underwater. But it can help in certain circumstances where peak heat is very quick.

exiledonmainstreet said...

karlpopperghost said...
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-napa-couple-20171012-story.html

Inseparable for 75 years, husband and wife Charles and Sara Rippey died in the Napa fire

This story is heartbreaking.

Bob Ellison said...

OK, OK, yeah, here's an exercise. Eleven miles is a long way, fire-wise, east of the Mississippi River. It's very short in the desert Southwest. You must be aware of your local climate. Wildfires and flash floods can kill, but they don't do that in Iowa.

It's different in the west. Dry is normal, and wet seasons lead to fire fuel, and the people there have to deal with that. But California is full of idiots who don't know that saving every sagebrush is not necessarily a good idea.

And "they stood back to back"-- I'm picturing that, sadly, and wondering what the hell the PR guy did to get that printed.

McG said...

Mrs. McG's aunt was evacuated and an assisted-living place adjacent to their home burned down. The aunt's male housemate said on social media he was expecting their home to be a total loss.

Happily, there was only superficial damage, and they're well enough off to not worry about the cost of repair -- but it was such a close thing.

Owen said...

Maybe people who move into an area should be required to take a course in What Fire/Flood Means Here. So they know what "11 miles" means. It can be Florida (hurricane surge), Missouri (crest spring flood on the river), Colorado (fire), California (mudslide, fire). This would actually be a pretty simple public education syllabus.

But who owns it? The realtor board? The fire company? The FEMA dork?

An amazing hole in the landscape, in very large part allowed to arise because we live in the First World.

In the First World, everything is pretty awesome (except for this personality issue with another personality). Until suddenly it isn't and the Third World burns through that surface of nicey-nice and "I have insurance."

It is amazing to me, how many people think they actually have protection. No, they have a social network (of strangers, under vague assumptions of trust or at best under contracts which are enforced by, wait for it, "vague assumptions of trust"). They have almost no direct access to, or understanding of, what they need for survival.

Fernandinande said...

Laslo Spatula said...
"Their mountaintop home was built like a boat with small rooms on 11 levels. ..."

Sounds kinda wonderful to me.


You know, of course, that they write Fake News about almost everything, not just Trump.

The address is 6070 Heights Rd, Santa Rosa.

It's not on top of a mountain, it's on the side of a hill.

It has 2 stories and 8 rooms, not rooms on "11 levels".

It was built and "last renovated" in 1984 and sold in 2017, perhaps contra "each room was designed to remind them of places they’d encountered during their travels." It's worth ~$93K more than when it was sold earlier this year.

reader said...

If I remember correctly during the 2014 Cocos fire we were told that if there were two homes threatened and one didn't have defensible space they would work to save the house with the defensible space and focus on preventing the spread. They didn't have enough people to try to save every home.

Now if I smell or see smoke I hunt down where it's coming from and start figuring out the relation of the fire to my location with day time and evening wind.

Paul said...

I wonder if they knew what the word... fireproof safe meant?

And yes, like tornado shelters, there are above and below ground fire shelters.

M Jordan said...

Althouse: “... but they should have evacuated sooner.”

This is my beef with all these disaster stories starting with Katrina. I never understood how most of those people in New Orleans ended up on the roofs of their houses when the flood was a slow-motion event with tons of warning.

Fritz said...

rhhardin said...
I've read that at least some of the fires were started by power lines downed by wind.

A power imbalance.


Unlikely to make network news:

Wine Country fires: Gov. Brown vetoed 2016 bill aimed at power line, wildfire safety

Good old Governor Moonbeam.

tcrosse said...

Redford and Fonda are itching for the movie. Oscar Gold !

Lyle said...

You wouldn't be able to see the house using google street view, because it is built on the side of the mountain. You would only see the top most part of it.

Nice looking couple.

D said...

These movies write themselves. Older couple. Rugged, been around the world types. Seen it all:

The rare colorful birds of Madagascar, the relentless poverty and human determination of Mumbai, the starkness of the Australian desert, the secret trails in New Zealand forests, the endlessness of the South Pacific horizon, the wonder of ritual dances in rural Vietnam, the relentlessness of crowds moving through the Tokyo subway, the mists of a moonlight night in a South Korean village, the lonely rumbling of a train across Siberia, the horse dancers of the Mongolian plain, the mournful flutes heard in Armenia, the happy violin on a street corner in Budapest, more dancing in Greece, a feast in Venice, a sombre mood in a Paris café, a singalong in a a pub in Wales, a football game in Barcelona, the casinos of Monaco, touched the walls of a holy place in Jersusalem, looked down into the dark desert from a Dubai skyscraper, laughed with fishermen on the shores of Kenya, even more dancing in Mozambique, walked with wonder through the jungles of the Congo and the Amazon, drank the best coffee in Medellin, ate the best fish in Santiago, had a rough night trying to sleep at the Super 8 outside of Scotsbluff.

Cut away every 4 minutes between the faraway settings and the fire overwhelming mementos from their travels as they burn in the House of Dreams and then back to the swimming pool scene for ongoing exposition. Lazlo can write up the romance. I presume someone is going to demand Anne Hathaway for female lead.

I do think the final shot should be of that Super 8 though, if I'm signed on as (hands-off) producer.

"Its not where you've been, it is who you were with"

reader said...

Fireproof safes don't always do much good for wildfires. The fire burns too hot for too long. You open the safe up and find ash and melted gunk.

karlpopperghost said...

Ann Althouse said...

@karlpopperghost

I saw that story the other day and chose not to blog it. It got press but why? A couple was a couple..


Maybe just the long arc of the lives of two very old people who knew each other since elementary school and died together in a house they loved at ages 100 and 98.

Also, the fact that the wife was in worse shape before the fire and might have died first leaving her husband alone and grieving. But they died together, trapped and confused and basically abandoned.

Sara’s health had severely declined since she suffered a stroke five years ago. Peach never left her side, not even to grab dinner with Mike who visited two to three times a week.

“I can safely say for my father that if he’d gotten out,” Mike said, “there would have been no way to console him.”


In the story you posted I have no real interest in the two people in the pool, they were able bodied and could have driven out like so many others.

Instead the nitwit decided to save some glass bowls. And in the end he couldn't even do that right.

They got into bed.

Their older daughter, Zoe Giraudo, called from San Francisco. Her father-in-law’s home in Napa Valley’s Silverado neighborhood had burned down. That was 40 miles from the Pascoes. “I think you guys should evacuate,” Zoe said.


What I want to know is what happened to their cat?

David said...

DBQ: There is no evidence that there was any kind of evacuation plan or any evacuation routes. The governments and other institutions, including emergency managers, seem not to have considered the idea. Evacuation plans can not solve everything but well conceived and properly rehearsed plans can move a lot of people in a hurry.

In the United States (including Puerto Rico) at least, proper planning for bad contingencies is usually the difference between large and limited loss of live.

David said...

Laslo Spatula said...
I had to look up "Dale Chihuly bowls'.


So you don't actually live in Seattle.

Bob Boyd said...

What I want to know is what happened to their cat?

Well there's good news and bad news.
The good news is somebody found the cat.
Unfortunately, it was a homeless woman in Venezuela.

mandrewa said...

Juan Browne, who has a channel on youtube, blancolirio, does a good job of explaining the problem.

As this time of year, California is usually very dry, and it's also not unusual to get windstorms. There was a big windstorm. Sustained winds were I believe about 40 mph with gusts that were much higher. What was kind of special about this was the lack of warning. It happened so suddenly that many people didn't know what was happening and even those that were paying attention might have had only one hour's warning.

The strong winds blow the treetops into the power lines. That starts the fires and the many fires that were started moved fast because of the wind.

There is no obvious remedy. It would be prohibitively expensive to bury the power lines most places.

Unknown said...

They survived because they didn't panic.

This is true; however, they made a tactical error in not evacuating.

Mark Chardonnay said...

http://www.wbir.com/news/local/wildfire/couple-82-survive-by-hiking-out-of-fire-on-foot/361663717

More functional fitness.

Howard said...

Love the Remington-ranger 20/20 hindsight Friday morning quarterbacking from flyover flatlanders. Surprised the law prof didn't call for the couple to be prosecuted for trespassing because the law must never ever be broached. The lack of evacuations was due to the night time fire start and the speed of the fire. People get evacuation fatigue because it's frequently unnecessary and also all the stories of people saving their homes by staying to defend. Santa Rosa is much more suburban and less mountainous with lower fuel load than Lake County Valley fire, so it's easy to imagine why many folks stayed home.

Assrat said...

Horrible story, I'm glad they made it okay.

That said, nobody tell the Californians that fire needs oxygen. They'll try to ban it.

Michael said...

In the decade I lived in California I was informed one year that the rain had been so heavy during the rainy season that the fire danger was very elevated. The next year I was informed that because of near drought conditions the fire danger was very elevated. In the one instance the rain had created more underbrush, in the latter the lack of rain had made for especially dry conditions although I argue that it is always dry in late summer and early fall in California. I was always puzzled by how they start since it is very rare indeed to see lightening in Northern Calif.

Howard said...

In the State of Jefferson region, Cal Fire puts out multiple lightening strike fires nearly every day during fire season.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

it is very rare indeed to see lightening in Northern Calif.

The Napa Sonoma area is not Northern California. More like mid state. Look at a map.

In the State of Jefferson region, Cal Fire puts out multiple lightening strike fires nearly every day during fire season.

Yes. We have lightning strikes all the time in the summer which cause spot fires that are hard to put out. Often the fires are just left to burn since the areas are remote with very few structures.

Letting the fires burn along with select logging and clearing the underbrush and controlled burning would make massive wildfires such as occurring now in Napa area less devastating. Unfortunately, California has made it more difficult to do such commonsense mitigation measures for some misguided environmental type of reasons.

Red sky in morning doesn't mean a storm is coming. It means we are going to be blanketed with smoke.

Ann Althouse said...

"I did feel some reaction against the newspaper for choosing to print THIS story instead of stories about all those who lost everything and are now destitute."

These people lost their house too. They also lost the man's lifework, his paintings. But many houses burned and much property is lost. Why focus on anyone? Here, what's interesting is that they were caught inside the fire and figured out how to survive. We can imagine trying to do what they describe. It's very unusual.

People who die don't need any more help. I'm more interested in survival stories than death stories (as this blog's archive shows).

Ann Althouse said...

"Maybe just the long arc of the lives of two very old people who knew each other since elementary school and died together in a house they loved at ages 100 and 98."

I agree that the main point of interest is that they were very old. One can speculate that the one might have survived but stayed with the other, but that's sentimental and made up. I think it's nice that some people get to live to be very old and the partner they love survives with them the whole time. It doesn't work out that way often enough. And I guess we sort of think it's nice that they die together... even when they are incinerated. But I find reveling in that particular niceness a bit too weird.

"In the story you posted I have no real interest in the two people in the pool, they were able bodied and could have driven out like so many others."

That was part of what interested me. They should have left. There had some kind of absurd California state of mind that I found funny and could enjoy because they survived.

"Instead the nitwit decided to save some glass bowls. And in the end he couldn't even do that right. They got into bed."

Yes, all of that was amusing... because they survived.

Ann Althouse said...

"Surprised the law prof didn't call for the couple to be prosecuted for trespassing because the law must never ever be broached."

Is "the law prof" me?

If so:

1. There's a defense to trespassing called "necessity," which clearly applies.

2. Since when are lawprofs the ones saying " the law must never ever be broached." Lawprofs are -- in my experience -- much less likely to say that than laypersons.

3. I'm retired.

MadisonMan said...

In the State of Jefferson region, Cal Fire puts out multiple lightening strike fires nearly every day during fire season.

Nope. They put out fires caused by LIGHTNING.

Link.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

LOL I KNEW that Madison Man would show up. He already 'schooled' me on the difference :-D

Denever said...

I wouldn't normally focus on appearance, but my first thought when I saw the wife is that she looks at least 20 years older than most 65-year-olds I know.

Simon Kenton said...

I'm with a Colorado volunteer fire department in the Wildland-Urban Interface. There are a couple things that really piss me off:

- Vacillating: we don't call evacuations because we savor foisting the inconvenience on residents. Obviously, our families have to evacuate too. Once we call it, go. People think they can futz around and wait to get out until the flames are in the trees next to the house. In fact, wait too long, and it's dark. It gets so dark you cannot see the next centerline in the road (if you even have a paved road to evacuate on). Your car needs oxygen to run at all, and when it gets bad, the oxygen is very busy elsewhere. Even if you have not run off the invisible road in the ashy blackness and crashed into a tree or toppled off a bridge that burned up, your car will quit, just before your lungs do.
- Self-congratulatory heroic defense tales. Based on no knowledge of fire and no preparation of really wide defensive space, you blow off the evacuation order, the fire goes elsewhere or we stall it, and you write brainless articles for the local New Dawn Gazette about how you and hubbykins saved your place with a garden hose. If you have water pressure, or if the fire hasn't cut power to your well pump, you can deploy about 5 gpm per hose from 3 hoses. Wildland fuels can produce flame heights 4 times their own height, and you live - we all live - in a ponderosa forest with trees 75 feet tall. Your published poppycock based on your luck defying a particular evacuation order may convince some other neighbor that they can squirt 5 gallons a minute at a 300-foot flame front, and live to write imbecilities of their own.

Howard said...

Good comments Simon. What's your opinion of what caused the deaths of 19 Hotshots at the Yarnell Hill Fire?

Howard said...

Touche, Ann.

Simon Kenton said...

Howard, the feds have been stonewalling on Yarnell. The best treatment so far is Michael Kodas' Megafire. Complicated situation, but you had 19 extremely dedicated, phenomenally fit, trained, and highly experienced firefighters double-time into a deathtrap. Physically, there were a couple factors: they were headed toward an initially visible safe zone below. They moved down a ridge, and dropped into a canyon choked with chaparral, losing sight of the fire, which hooked around the end of the canyon and up toward them. Chaparral is a hellish fuel. It acts like shintangle, if you've ever been in Alaska. Hooks boots, traps ankles, grabs at knees, interweaves across your thighs, forces you to wedge your shoulders through, snags packs and tools. It's not like a "forest" fire, where you can drop your shit and run for it. All that, plus it is dry-grass-quick to ignite, oily, and releases enormous BTUs right at person-level. (Another fuel from hell, gambels oak, acts about the same, and killed 13 on the Storm King fire.) If you have to cut a safe zone in chaparral to deploy shelters (the Yarnell Hotshots tried to) you can't make much progress and you are producing a mass of intensely flammable boughs and trunks all around the crew that your swampers can't get rid of.

Motivationally, Kodas speculates that they were driven to try to save structures and lives that appeared imperiled in the valley below. It was their community (or at least, very near it by wind-driven fire standards). Kodas contrasts this poignantly with the rather casual perspective of many residents about creating defensible space and prescribed burns; they 'love nature' too much to hurt trees and brush, while smoke makes their eyes itch.

All in all, a terribly painful story for me. So many young lives, some recently turned around; so much esprit; so much love among the team; so many outwardly tough and supportive young wives; so many young families just beginning: ashes.

Howard said...

Thanks Simon. Megafire looks interesting.

Earnest Prole said...

The Napa Sonoma area is not Northern California. More like mid state. Look at a map.

Sorry, DBQ, but more schooling is in store for you today. I've lived in the Bay Area for more than thirty years, and it most certainly is called Northern California (I also spend half my days closer to your neck of the woods in the Sierra). Indeed, you may be shocked how far to the south Northern California extends.