Profiles in Courage: Byron and Gladys McKaig

When I read this story I was of course sad at the tragedy that had befallen the McKaig’s, but I was also Proud that this man, Mr. Byron McKaig, a retired Priest, died trying to Protect his wife during a recent wildfire in California. 

Mr. McKaig EXEMPLIFIES all the qualities that I try to have in my own life and also teach my children: Duty, Honor, Self-Sacrifice, Courage and Committment.-SF

The El Portal Fire burns on a hillside in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park on Sunday evening July 27, 2014. The community of El Portal was under a mandatory evacuation. By Tuesday the blaze had burned nearly 3,000 acres. Long exposure image.

As a fire roared across Squirrel Mountain Valley on Thursday evening, the flames left little untouched. Trees and homes were torched like kindling. Propane tanks exploded like bombs. Oil fields caught fire. Lake Isabella, an hour northeast of Bakersfield, Calif., disappeared behind a haze of smoke and ash.

When the fire had passed Friday morning, locals assessed the scene.

They saw hundreds of homes, gone; dozens of vehicles burned to a crisp; tens of millions of dollars worth of damage.

And then, amid the smoldering ruins, Bill Johnson spotted his neighbors.

Byron and Gladys McKaig were lying against a corner of their fire-ravaged fence.

They were not moving.

The retired priest and his church organist wife, so close in life, had died together during the blaze.

“He was, like, on top of her, and they were together, like he was blocking her from the fire,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times. “It made me sick because immediately I saw and knew exactly what had happened — that they were alive and ran out of this burning inferno and got stuck, and that was where they ended.

“I thought it was terrible for those people to go like that. Just horrible,” he added. “They didn’t deserve it.”

Friends and family members, however, took some solace in the fact that the elderly couple died embracing each other.

“It was beautiful, his devotion to her,” Bishop Eric Menees told “He cared for her up until their very last seconds.”

Read the Remainder at Washington Post