When a wildfire engulfed their hilltop rental house without warning, Armando and Carmen Berriz took shelter in a swimming pool, their mouths and noses poking out of the water to gulp the smoky air.
The longtime married couple were there for hours overnight, breathing and praying together, as the blaze roared around them.
Once the fires finally passed, Armando Berriz climbed out, shaken but alive. Carmen, his wife of 55 years, didn’t make it.
“Everybody loved her,” Monica Ocon said of her mother, 75, who died in her husband’s arms early Monday morning amid the fires that have ravaged the Northern California wine country. “This loss has affected family and friends around the world.”
Ocon, her husband, her daughter and her parents, Armando and Carmen, were enjoying a vacation in Santa Rosa to celebrate her parents’ birthdays. Much of Sunday afternoon was spent by the pool, playing games and swapping stories.