Couple who refused to evacuate during wildfire died ‘together in the home they loved’

GRAND LAKE, Colo. — The bodies of a Colorado couple who decided to stay in their home during the ongoing East Troublesome Fire were recovered Friday, officials said.

Family members of Lyle Hileman, 86, and his 84-year-old wife, Marylin Hileman, said multiple loved ones offered to help the couple evacuate Wednesday as the wildfire approached their home near the Rocky Mountain National Park, but the couple refused to leave their house.

The Hilemans, who honeymooned near Grand Lake in 1952, fell in love with the area and later purchased property there, Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said in a statement Friday.

“Years later, they would buy the property adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park,” their family said in a statement. “The property become a lifelong mission to create ‘heaven on earth’ to which family, friends and strangers, who quickly became friends, would be drawn.”

According to the family, the Hilemans planned to stay at the property “as long as physically possible," and they were “calm, resolute and adamant [that] they would not leave” when they spoke to their son on the phone Wednesday, CNN reported.

“They asked their son to call his siblings and let them know they were in the basement in an area they felt safe,” Sheriff Schroetlin said Friday.

According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Hilemans told their son they smelled smoke before they ended the call. They also told him the fire had spread in the fields, barns and adjacent homes.

“Their only desire was to be together in the home they loved,” the family said Friday. “Our family feels comforted in the knowledge our parents left this world together and on their own terms. They leave a legacy of hard work and determination to overcome, something all in Grand County will need.”

Matthew Reed, a neighbor of the Hilemans who lost his home to the fire Wednesday, told KCNC-TV Lyle Hileman was a firefighter in Denver for the majority of his career.

One of the Hilemans' grandchildren, who remains unnamed, wrote on Twitter that her grandparents had been “preparing for this since they built the house 50 years ago," adding, "Grandpa was a firefighter, so he knew what he was doing.”

On Thursday, while the family was still waiting to find out if the Hilemans had survived in the bunker, the grandchild wrote that the family’s big, yellow house was “a total loss,” per the sheriff.

According to KCNC, the family has the original plans of the home and plans to rebuild it.

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