Elderly Anglican priest tried to shield his wife from flames as they died in massive brush fire

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Husband Shielded Wife As They Both Died When Wildfire Swept Through Home

Gladys McKaig, 90, was in failing health, but her 81-year-old husband, Byron, was her constant companion and protector.

And it remained so even as they lay dying.

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The couple perished in the massive Erskine Fire that has devoured more than 46,000 acres in California and destroyed more than 200 buildings.

See more of the devastating fires in California:

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Devastating wildfires ravaging California (BI)
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Devastating wildfires ravaging California (BI)
DUARTE, CA - JUNE 21: A firefighting helicopter drops water near some 700 evacuated homes to protect against an expected wind shift at the San Gabriel Complex Fire in the Angeles National Forest on June 21, 2016 in Duarte, California. A pair of fires, the Fish Fire and the Reservoir Fire, that began yesterday under record-producing heatwave conditions have merged to form the San Gabriel Complex Fire. The fire now covers at least 5,400 acres and is zero percent contained. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
MONROVIA, CA - JUNE 21: A converted DC-10 Air Tanker drops fire retardant along a ridge to protect communities that border the wilderness at the San Gabriel Complex Fire in the Angeles National Forest on June 21, 2016 near Monrovia, California. A pair of fires, the Fish Fire and the Reservoir Fire, that began yesterday under record-setting heatwave conditions, have merged to form the San Gabriel Complex Fire. The fire now covers at least 5,400 acres and is zero percent contained. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
A burned out truck rests on a roadside after the Erskine Fire burned through Weldon, California, U.S. June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Noah Berger TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Firefighters mop up a hot spot at a residence leveled by the Erskine Fire in South Lake, California, U.S. June 26, 2016. REUTERS/Noah Berger
The remains of scorched homes line a street after the Erskine Fire burned through South Lake, California, U.S. June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Noah Berger
Terralyn Lehman recalls fleeing the Erskine Fire as she sits outside an evacuation center at Kernville Elementary School in Kernville, California, U.S. June 26, 2016. Lehman, whose South Lake home burned Thursday, said the sound of an exploding propane tank woke her and her mom as the flames reached their back fence. REUTERS/Noah Berger TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Alex Thurman, 20, stands in front of a smoldering field as the Erskine Fire burns near Weldon, California, U.S. June 24, 2016. Thurman said he thinks the fire destroyed his neighboring home. REUTERS/Noah Berger
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Their bodies were found outside the smoldering remains of their home, sprawled against a corner of their fence.

"He was like on top of her, and they were together, like he was blocking her from the fire," neighbor Bill 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. They didn't deserve it," he said.

He was an Anglican priest who married the church organist in July 1984. He had come to the Lake Isabella area in the early 1980s after a divorce.

Gladys was a deeply religious woman with a fierce love of music, as was her husband. They were a "perfect match," daughter Susan McKaig told the Bakersfield Californian.

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"They were each other's half," she said. "They loved each other very much and the family [is] taking comfort from the fact that they passed together."

The couple had two other grown daughters.

He had retired from his pastoral duties eight years ago, but was still active in the church.

"It was beautiful, his devotion to her," said Bishop Eric Menees of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin. "He cared for her up until their very last seconds."

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