California Fires Victim Dies In Husband’s Arms After Jumping In Pool To Avoid Flames

(CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBSNews) —  A Southern California woman died in the arms of her husband of 55 years as the Tubbs Fire in Northern California raged around them, CBS Los Angeles reports.

Carmen Berriz, 75, is among the at least 40 people confirmed dead from the deadliest wildfires in California history.

(CBS)

Berriz and her husband Armando Berriz, 76, had chosen Santa Rosa’s wine country for their annual family vacation, their daughter Monica Berriz-Ocon told CBS Los Angeles. They met as children in Cuba more than 60 years ago and had been married for 55 years.

Berriz-Ocon’s husband woke everyone up when the fire started raging last Monday (Oct. 9).

“By the time we got into our car, there were flames, 30-foot flames on the back side of the house, and the structure in front of us was aflame,” Berriz-Ocon said.

The family started heading down a hill in three cars. A tree fell not far from the house, trapping the car carrying her parents.

“I didn’t see his headlights after a specific turn,” Berriz-Ocon said.

Her husband tried to turn back, but authorities stopped him, saying it was too dangerous.

“My father very levelheadedly and very resourcefully said, ‘We’ve got to go back to the house and jump in the pool,’ and that’s what they did,” Berriz-Ocon said.

For hours, the inferno consumed everything around them, and her parents clung to each other. At times only their noses and mouths were above water.

Berriz-Ocon said her dad kept them afloat by holding onto the scorching sides of the pool. Her mom had always had respiratory problems, but Berriz-Ocon said she fought for her life and his.

“She actually made it through the worst part of the whole fire … her lungs just kind of gave out,” Berriz-Ocon said.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Armando Berriz told his daughter and son-in-law that he held his wife for hours after she stopped breathing. When the smoke cleared, he moved her body to the shallow end of the pool, crossed her arms over her chest and made his way down the hill, where he was found by firefighters.

“The love they had for each other was something that everybody has always admired and loved,” Berriz-Ocon told CBS Los Angeles.

Armando Berriz was released from a burn center late last week and was recovering from burn wounds on his face, head and hands.

(CBS).