Two Californians who died in a wildfire last week had planned to evacuate but instead stayed home based on flawed information, authorities said.
Philip Ruble, 68, and Millicent Catarncuic, 77, were planning to leave their northern California home and the North Complex Fire behind, CNN reported. But after the couple packed their bags, they heard that the fire was 51% contained and decided to stay.
That information was not entirely erroneous, as the U.S. Forest Service announced the morning of Sept. 8 that the North Complex Fire was 51% contained. However, that percentage rapidly dropped as the fire jumped a river, according to the Modesto Bee. By evening, the fire was only 37% contained.
At 3:30 p.m. that day, a mandatory evacuation order for the couple’s town of Berry Creek had been issued, the Bee reported. Exactly when Ruble and Catarncuic died is unknown.
Ruble was found dead in a burned out Toyota pickup, and Catarncuic was found on a nearby embankment, according to CNN.
The North Complex Fire has killed 15 people, making it the fifth-deadliest fire in recorded California history. It’s also torched 273,000 acres, making it the eighth-largest. It has almost entirely destroyed the town of Berry Creek, about 90 miles north of Sacramento.
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