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memorable moment

A wedding to remember: Couple, guests escape ahead of spreading Atlas Fire

From the THE LATEST: Napa County Wildfire Updates series
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A wedding to remember: Couple, guests escape ahead of spreading Atlas fire

Sam Ross and Rachel Lieberstein offered a quick toast to guests and enjoyed a brief kiss before evacuating their wedding reception ahead of the Atlas Fire on Sunday, Oct. 8. This photo was taken at about 10 p.m., just minutes after guests spotted the distinctive glow of fire in the distance.

Rachel Lieberstein and Sam Ross have a wedding photo that captures more than just a pivotal moment in their lives.

The couple was married on Sunday, Oct. 8, with a reception at a home with a view of Atlas Peak.

Just as Rachel was doing the traditional dance with her father, former Napa County District Attorney Gary Lieberstein, guests saw a glow in the distance.

“We started seeing the red glow from the hills and I thought it was a small fire in someone’s vineyard so we just kept dancing and didn’t pay it too much attention at first,” Rachel Lieberstein told Fox News. “It wasn’t until the flames jumped over the hill that we started wondering what, if anything, we should do.”

Realizing the fire was spreading, the couple did a quick cake cutting and prepared for everyone to leave for safety. Police arrived shortly thereafter to advise an immediate evacuation. Guests left by about 10:15 p.m., Gary Lieberstein said.

But not before the wedding photographer, Jimmy Gideon, captured an unforgettable image: The couple kissing, with the outbreak of the Atlas fire in the background.

Looking at it now, Rachel Lieberstein says she feels “Overwhelmed and a little naive that I just did not comprehend what was happening to us. I had just had the best night of my life with my husband.”

The 120 guests scrambled down the hill to a parking lot out of harm’s way, taking what vehicles they could find.

“We left without taking any of our wedding presents, our guestbook, wedding wine and I left barefoot; there wasn’t any time at that point to find my shoes,” she said.

The bride is the daughter of Gary and Patti Lieberstein of Napa. The groom is the son of Michael and Wendy Ross of Atlanta.

They decided to go ahead with their honeymoon and have been following the aftermath of the fire with great concern, her father said.

“Rachel and Sam left their home with heavy hearts for family and community,” Gary Lieberstein said. “They are safe and on their honeymoon in New Zealand.”

Rachel told FOX News that it is “physically painful” to follow the aftermath of the fire and it has been difficult sorting real information from the rampant rumors.

“However, we are also so grateful that our friends and family are safe, that we have each other, that we have memories of our wedding that just include only pure happiness that have nothing to do with this nightmare that currently surrounds Napa County,” she said.

Added husband Sam Ross, “I feel fortunate that all of our family and friends are safe and accounted for from the fire and I’m looking forward upon our return to work within our community to help Napa rebuild. But for now, I just am enjoying my honeymoon with my beautiful wife the best we can in New Zealand and I am grateful to all the first responders who have come to offer their services during this horrific tragedy.”

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