A 101-year-old man who got as far as the front door of his burning Fountaingrove home before telling his wife to run to safety without him was the latest victim to be identified Thursday by coroner’s officials as one of 23 people known to have died in Sonoma County in last month’s wildfires.
Flames from the rampaging Tubbs fire threatened from every direction when Tak-Fu Hung and his wife, Helen Hung, 76, peered into the night in search of a way out of the inferno, his daughter and granddaughter said Thursday.
But even with a wet towel draped over them, Tak-Fu Hung didn’t see how he would survive the violent storm and told his wife to try to get out on her own, they said.
“He told her, ‘Just go,’” Rosanne O’Hara said by phone from San Francisco, describing her grandfather’s last moments. “He would not make it. He couldn’t make it.”
Tak-Fu Hung died at the house on Hanover Place, one of 43 lives taken across Northern California by the fires that erupted Oct. 8.
Helen Hung briefly sought cover against a low wall in the front yard, then lay for hours on a neighbor’s driveway as flames raged around her, family members said.
She suffered multiple burns but survived the fire and is recovering in a skilled nursing facility, haunted by what happened. She lay alone on the hot pavement for five hours before successfully reaching someone who could help, they said.
“The flames went over her repeatedly, but she was far away from brush, so that the fire wasn’t constantly on her,” Rosanne O’Hara said.
A nearly 20-year resident of Santa Rosa, Tak-Fu Hung was remarkably healthy as he approached his 102nd birthday and had only recently begun walking some of the time with a cane.
He was born in 1915 in a rural area of China’s Anhui province in the days before civil war resulted in Communist rule.
He fought as a general with the Kuomintang against Mao Zedong’s revolutionary army, and when the Communists won, fled to Hong Kong and then Taiwan, his daughter, Annie Yen O’Hara, and granddaughter said.
During a brief sojourn in Hong Kong, Hung met his first wife, Lijan Ho, who would die at age 46. Hung, a civil engineer, built houses in Taiwan while the couple raised six sons and a daughter.
Then, with only the youngest in tow, they moved to San Francisco, where Hung retired.
All of their children eventually joined them in the United States, immigrating to attend college or obtain graduate degrees, Annie O’Hara said.
An affable, engaging man who deeply loved his children and grandchildren, he was often the center of lively conversation and “was really good at commanding a room,” his granddaughter said.
The tri-level house in which he and Helen Hung lived was where Annie O’Hara and her husband had planned to spend their retirement.
In the meantime, it was the family’s gathering place, big enough to hold as many of Hung’s six children, 12 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren as might be able to attend a given holiday or event. The San Francisco clan visited often.