NAPA (CBS SF) — Mike Rippey stood in what was once his parents front door. As he surveyed the scene, memories flashed through his mind.
His parents — Charles and Sara — died in the early hours of the firestorm that swept into their neighborhood from the nearby Atlas Peak. The white hot flames incinerated the home, turning it into a pile of charred debris. The only thing left relatively untouched was the mailbox.
“This house was one of the first ones hit (in the subdivision),” Rippey told KPIX 5. “The fire came out of those hills and it was coming 30-40-50 miles an hour and it was like a rainstorm expect it was fire. It was blowing hot debris through the air.”
“There were no responders here yet. Later on down the road, a lot of the responders were going door to door, pulling people out of the houses. But nobody was able to get here. My mother and father being 100 and 98 were not able to move fast enough to get out on their own.”
Charles and Sara grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and met in grade school when their life-long love affair began.
“He was in sixth grade and she was in fourth grade,” Mike Rippey said. “They went to the University of Wisconsin together and have been together ever since.”
Rippey said his father went off to fight in World War II, came back and the couple began their family of five kids. They lived in the Midwest and East Coast and came to the Bay Area after their son had relocated here. They settled into a quiet, retired life.
The couple recently celebrated their 75th wedding.
“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.”
Rippey said his father finally act was to try and rescue his mother. His father body was found in the remains of the hallway just outside where her bedroom once stood.
“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. She just couldn’t move well at all. And there is no way he would have left.”