LAKE BERRYESSA (CBS13) – Through the hazy orange glow of a wall of flames, Rio Vista Fire Department Chief Jeff Armstrong saw Jim Robinson crawling down the side of Highway 128 near Lake Berryessa.
Robinson, 54, was badly burned and using a flashlight to find help around 4:14 a.m. Wednesday.
“There’d be no reason for a light to be there, and it was moving was the other thing it caught my eye,” Armstrong said. “Through my windshield, I could tell he was burned. That’s how severe the injuries were. We’re talking second and third-degree burns over the majority of his body.”
Swipe to see more photos released by the fire department.
But when Armstrong and Battalion Cheif Adrian Hairston jumped out, Robinson refused help until they found his girlfriend Karen, who was hiding out in a culvert nearly a mile down the road.
“I told him I could hear her from a distance crying and moaning out for help, so we definitely knew she was alive and in the area,” Hairston said.
After 40 minutes of searching, they found Karen severely injured and clutching a suitcase.
“[I] grabbed her hand which was severely burned and said okay hun, this is gonna hurt and I grabbed her hand and pulled her up the hill,” Armstrong said.
The men then carried Karen nearly a mile back to their truck before they rushed her and Jim to the hospital.
For Jim’s family, Chief Armstrong and Hairston are the only reason the couple survived.
“They’re heroes in my opinion,” Jim’s son James Robinson said. “I told them like, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Like, if it wasn’t for you guys, they probably would not be alive today.”
While it’s unclear exactly when the couple evacuated, fire crews hope this dramatic rescue drives home one important message.
“If you live in an area that’s prone to the wildland fire, have a plan and then leave when advised,” Armstrong said.
The family says Karen had surgery Friday and is still recovering in the hospital. They said Jim will likely be in the hospital for several months. Their ranch was destroyed in the fire.
The LNU Lightning Complex wildfire has burned approximately 300,000 acres and was at 15% containment just before noon on Friday, according to Cal Fire.
In Solano County, approximately 62,000 acres have been charred and 154 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged. Cal Fire said 14,000 people — about 5,250 residences – are still evacuated.