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Outside, the family made a panicked scramble to their cars.
Luis Ocon took the lead, then his wife and daughter in a second car.
Luis Ocon had met a firefighter, Jason Novak with Cal Fire, while he was fleeing, and though Novak had made him leave, he’d promised to look for the Berrizes.
He’d taken Luis’ cell phone number and said he would call.
He saw his in-laws get into the third car and take off behind him. They were surrounded by fire and smoke so thick that Luis Ocon could hardly see in front of him, so he drove by the feel of the tires on the reflectors that bumped like braille down the middle of the road.
At the bottom of the hill he stopped, then ran to his wife when she pulled up. When no one arrived, he sent his wife and daughter farther down the hill to safety. At the top of the hill, the Berrizes hadn’t made it far. Armando and Carmen Berriz had known each other for more than 60 years, since they were children in Cuba.
In the water, Armando Berriz kept them afloat by hanging onto the brick sides, which were hot as oven racks and burned the palms of his hands. They dipped as deep as they could get into the water, at times keeping only their noses and mouths, and Armando Berriz’s hands, exposed.
When his wife stopped breathing, Armando Berriz held her still.
Evacuees trying to connect with family and friends should check the organization's Safe and Well website: Community volunteers who want to help in relief efforts can sign up with the Red Cross: Cross Vol October2017Donations to help those affected by California wildfires and other disasters can be made at
She died on Monday as the Tubbs Fire raced from Calistoga west into Santa Rosa, surprising residents and firefighters.
Her husband, 76, suffered serious burns but survived.
Armando and Carmen Berriz held each other in their arms in a swimming pool as flames whipped around them for hours the night of Oct. Armando, though badly burned, survived the ordeal at the rented Santa Rosa house. less Armando and Carmen Berriz held each other in their arms in a swimming pool as flames whipped around them for hours the night of Oct. Armando, though badly burned, survived the ordeal at the rented Santa Rosa ...
more As fire raged all around them and smoke choked their lungs, Carmen and Armando Berriz had no choice but to cling to one another while immersed in a swimming pool behind their rented house on the north edge of Santa Rosa.