SANTA ROSA — A celebration of life is planned for Suiko and Arthur Grant, who are among more than 40 people who perished as a result of the wildfires that continue to rage in Northern California.
The Grants were victims of the Tubbs Fire, which ran through northern Santa Rosa late Sunday and early Monday, killing at least 18 people as it leveled entire neighborhoods.
Trina Grant of Denver told The New York Times that her 95-year-old father and 75-year-old mother apparently tried to leave the area by car, but a fallen telephone pole and downed power lines blocked the narrow route to and from their hilltop home on Riebli Road. They hid in with their dog in the wine cellar and were asphyxiated as the fire burned the house to the foundation, consuming all of the available oxygen.
Their fruit trees and hobby vineyard were also lost.
“The only thing that makes me feel any better is that they didn’t burn alive,” their daughter said. “And they were at least together.”
The fire was so fast-moving that failure to evacuate immediately meant almost certain death.
“My dad’s best friend was calling and calling my parents, but they were completely asleep,” said Trina Grant. “By the time my dad finally picked up and his friend said, ‘You’ve got to get out,’ it was probably already too late.”
Arthur Grant was a retired captain with Pan American World Airways who had met his wife in Honolulu while working for the airline.
“It was a true love-at-first-sight story,” Trina Grant told The San Francisco Chronicle. “He found the most beautiful gal in the world to marry.”
Arthur Grant grew up on a dairy farm in Point Arena, Mendocino County. In high school, he was an accomplished member of the Future Farmers of America and was awarded a state prize for his Guernsey cows.
After briefly attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He flew both the Hellcat and Corsair jets while training as a fighter pilot, but the war ended before he was able to fly combat missions. He retired as a lieutenant, then flew with Pan Am for 25 years.
Suiko Grant was born in China and raised in Sapporo, Hokkaido. After graduating from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, she went to work for a Japanese company in Hawaii, and her roommate was dating a pilot. The pilot was Mr. Grant, and Suiko “stole his heart,” said their daughter.
Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, who met Mr. Grant on the campaign trail, said that the two are now “together for eternity.”
A page on the “compassionate crowdfunding” site You Caring (www.youcaring.com/arthursuikotrinagrant-979411), reads, “Please join Trina Grant and friends in cherishing and honoring the lives of her parents, Suiko and Arthur Grant; two spirits of the ocean who fell in love by the sea in Waikiki.
“Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 at 7:00 a.m. at Tourmaline Surfing Park, La Jolla, CA. Celebrate the lives of Arthur & Suiko, who were taken tragically by the fire in Santa Rosa.
“Everyone is welcome to attend. For those of you who surf, the service will include a paddle-out in their memory. A paddle-out is a time-honored ritual [in which] participants enter the water together and float on the surface, hands linked one by one to form a circle, in honor of the life of a loved one.”
As of Monday, $5,715 had been raised for the memorial fund by 54 donors toward the $20,000 goal.
The couple is also survived by daughter Tasman Grant of San Francisco, a granddaughter, Sloane, and Mr. Grant’s sister, Agnes.
According to SF Gate, the North Bay fires have killed 41 people, including one firefighter, in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties. As of Monday, the 48,627-acre Nuns Fire in Napa County was 50 percent contained; the 36,390-acre Tubbs Fire was 70 percent contained; and the 51,064-acre Atlas Fire in Napa County was 68 percent contained.