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California

Weeks after the flames subsided, devastating wine country fires claim their 44th victim

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Michael Azarian, a 41-year-old electrical engineer, died Sunday of injuries he suffered in the October Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa.
(Courtesy of Khachatur Papanyan)

Michel Azarian, a 41-year-old electrical engineer described as a brilliant problem solver, died Sunday of injuries suffered in October’s wine country fires, according to media reports and Azarian’s close friend.

Azarian, an immigrant from Lebanon of Armenian descent, is the 44th victim to die as a result of the wildfires that ravaged Northern California.

His close friend Khachik Papanyan said Azarian was extremely intelligent, endured Lebanon’s bloody civil war in the 1980s and managed to attend the American University of Beirut, Lebanon’s most prestigious school.

After the Tubbs fire, neighbors found him still alive but trapped in a small clearing outside his home in Santa Rosa, Papanyan said. He was treated at UC Davis Medical Center, but succumbed to severe burns that covered more than half his body.

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He loved traveling, photography and hiking the many trails in Silicon Valley, Papanyan said. He also liked being around people and was a member of his local Toastmaster’s International club, which helps members sharpen their public speaking skills.

Azarian’s colleagues at Keysight Technologies and his friends were at his bedside as he fought for survival. Papanyan said one of Azarian’s friends, Vatche Souvalian, flew to Lebanon just to escort Azarian’s elderly mother to the United States.

Papanyan said he still hasn’t come to terms with the loss of his dear friend.

“I don’t think I’ve even quite ascertained what has happened,” Papanyan said. “I think it will take some time to settle that I will never see him again.”

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Adam.Elmahrek@latimes.com

@adamelmahrek


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