According to AP News, the majority of those killed in the recent California wildfires were in their 70s and 80s. A total of 42 people have been reported dead. Several couples — who were elderly — died together, including childhood sweethearts who had grown old together, who were enjoying retirement until the California fires came and burned them alive.
A 95-year-old man and his 75-year-old wife spent their final living moments huddled together. They were hiding from the raging fires in a wine cellar when their home of over 45 years got burned up in the fire. They did not survive.
The oldest victim in the fire was 100-year-old WWII veteran, Charles Rippey. Although once a strong and able veteran, Rippey was using a walker during the time of his death. He was alongside his 98-year-old wife, Sara, who also had difficulty moving around after her stroke. Their caretaker escaped, but the couple did not. They got trapped in the house as their roof caught blaze and engulfed both them and their longtime home.
AP also reports of another 80-year-old man who tried to escape, but like the others did not make it. He was walking to his car after his 80-year-old wife got into it to escape. But they were both too late and the two died together as the fire consumed them.
Another example of elderly being the prevailing victims of the fire can be seen with the story of Armando Berriz, 76, who was clinging onto his wife of 55 years, Carmen Caldentey Berriz, when she died. They were afloat in their swimming pool as the fire blazed all around them. The flames caught onto his wife and severely burned her, and caused her to stop breathing. This is when he let go, laying her on the step of the pool with her arms crossed over her chest. He then walked 2 miles, alone, to find help.
In our individualist culture, which values youth and undervalues those who are old, and which gravely undervalues the importance of families and communities, could more have been done to help these vulnerable members of society be able to escape such a tragic death?
Clearly, these vulnerable members of society were in need of special help. Since they had been victims of terrible strokes, cancers, and life-threatening illnesses, they could not move quickly enough to escape the speedy flames. Many of them were simply unaware of the fires, hearing only frantic last-minute calls from friends and neighbors. These last minute frantic warnings, for some elderly, were the only warnings they got. And for many, they were too late.
Who, many have wondered, were communicating with and looking after these elderly couples?
George Powell, 74, is reported by AP to have been waking up early on Monday. He looked out his window to flames and immediately woke his 72-year-old wife, Lynne Anderson Powell. In a state of shock, she grabbed her laptop and a small dog, and began to drive away from their home. He soon followed her in his own car after getting their three other dogs. After driving for a while, he saw his wife's car on the side of the road ravaged by violent smoke. Lynn's body was burned steps away from her car. The dog was burned to death inside.
"She was my life," he claimed.
"I don't know how I am going to cope."
Please pray for all elderly citizens in our country who will find this day difficult and lonely. In recent news, 1.3 million of the best-selling vehicles in America are being recalled.