The grim search for victims of deadly fires laying waste to large areas of the North Bay continued Thursday, raising the death toll to 31 people between wildfires in Northern California.
Seventeen of the dead were found in Sonoma County — residents at home when they died, except for one victim who was vacationing with family in the area and resided in Southern California, Sheriff Rob Giordano said.
They include three couples long-married and in their twilight years who died together as wind-driven flames from the now nearly 35,000-acre Tubbs fire swept upon them overnight. One person also was found outside a car, Giordano said.
The deaths in the Tubbs fire have been discovered throughout the fire’s reach, including the Larkfield-Wikiup area, up along Mark West Springs Road, in urban Coffey Park and the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa, according to fire officials. Some of the bodies were little more than ash and bone, authorities said.
Another victim was just 14, a Mendocino County teen who was trying to flee flames in the community of Redwood Valley with his family. The three survivors suffered severe burns. Kai Logan Shepherd, the teenager, was one of eight people known to have died in Mendocino County fires.
Authorities expect to find more victims. As the numbers mount, some names have been trickling out through family and friends, for whom days of desperate searching have reached heartbreaking conclusions.
Giordano released the identities of 10 individuals who died in Sonoma County on Thursday evening. Others of the 31 died elsewhere in Northern California, including Napa and Yuba counties.
These are the victims so far:
Christina Hanson, 27, of Santa Rosa, was a “shining light in the lives of everyone that she touched,” family said. Relatives initially turned to social media Monday to search for the woman, who was in a wheelchair, after learning her home in the Larkfield-Wikiup area had been destroyed in the fire.
“Sadly our search for Christina has ended with the news of her passing,” her cousin, Brittney Vinculado, wrote in a post a day later. “Please keep her family in your prayers.”
Hanson’s father, Michael, suffered severe burns in the fire but is in stable condition, Vinculado later shared on the YouCaring fundraising site.
Linda Tunis, 69, never made it out of her house at Santa Rosa’s Journey’s End mobile home park on Mendocino Avenue when the Tubbs fire came roaring down the hill from the east. Her remains were found among the rubble where her home once stood, her daughter, Jessica Tunis, posted on Facebook.
“My family is so grateful for the outpouring of support,” she wrote in an update late Wednesday. “I have been a mess, absolutely devastated. Hug and kiss your loved ones extra hard tonight.”
Karen Aycock, 56, was found Thursday in what used to be the master bathroom of her Dogwood Drive home in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood, said her niece, Victoria Rilling, who along with family members spent four days frantically trying to find her.
Rilling, who lives in Connecticut, worked the phone lines, calling the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Red Cross and a local radio station, and turned to social media, while family members in the area searched emergency shelters. She said the family held hope they’d find her alive until Jeannette Scroggins, Rilling’s sister, returned to the site of the fire and found some remains.
When deputies broke the news to her Thursday afternoon, she described feeling “relief, heartbreak, utter dismay.” Still, she was grateful for the effort by authorities to search for her aunt. “They didn’t give up. Their perseverance is phenomenal,” said Rilling.
Aycock lived in the house alone with her cats after her mother passed away several years ago. A former construction worker who had injured her back, she didn’t have the means or desire to move out of the house, which her parents purchased in the 1970s, Rilling said.
LeRoy and Donna Halbur, both 80, lived on Angela Drive near Cardinal Newman High School. They died in the first hours of the fast-moving Tubbs fire. The couple had been married for 50 years, son David Halbur said Thursday. The family learned Monday of their deaths.
Lynne Anderson Powell, 72, became separated from her husband while driving away from their home above Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa, apparently in separate cars, according to a social media post by people searching for her. She lived on Blue Ridge Trail, according to public records.
Arthur Tasman Grant, 95, and Suiko Grant, 75, lived on Sundown Trail in the Mark West neighborhood, according to public records. In a post on Facebook, their daughter, Trina Grant, posted photos of her parents as a young woman and a man in uniform and fighter pilot wings, with the following: “Today I lost my beautiful parents, Arthur and Suiko Grant. They were not able to escape the fires in the Mark West Springs Road area of Santa Rosa. Thank you to everyone who searched for them at the evacuation sites. I appreciate you. Dad I know you’re back flying a corsair again. Mom, you’ll always be the most beautiful woman in the world to me. Godspeed to you both.”
Carmen Caldentey Berriz, 75, of Apple Valley, near Victorville, reportedly was vacationing with family in the area when the fire struck, Giordano said. Her son-in-law, Luis Ocon, said from Salinas that the grandmother of six was with her husband of more than 50 years and that both jumped into a swimming pool to try to protect themselves. Her husband survived. Berriz was a retired airline executive secretary.
“She died, but she was with my father-in-law,” Ocon said.
Sharon Robinson, a petite 79-year-old, died in her home in the Riebli Road area near Mark West Springs Road. During several days of dispirited searching, her daughter, Cathie Merkel, posted a photo of her mother’s razed hillside home on Facebook, noting that Robinson’s car remained in the garage.
She wrote on Thursday: “To my dear friends, thank you all for your efforts in trying to find my mom. We received the news today that she did not make it out of her home the night of the fire. During the next few days I won’t be returning any messages as we deal with the effects of this tragedy. We know she found peace in her passing. Thank you for understanding, stay safe.”
Carol Collins-Swasey, 76, was a retired Santa Rosa real estate agent. She lived on Hemlock Street near Coffey Park, according to public records.
Valerie Lynn Evans, 75, from Santa Rosa. She lived on Coffey Lane, according to public records.
Michael John Dornbach, 57, lived just inside the Sonoma County line on Mountain Home Ranch Road outside Calistoga.
Veronica Elizabeth McCombs, 67, of Santa Rosa, lived on Mark West Springs Road, according to public records.
In the Atlas fire in Napa County:
Sara and Charles Rippey, 98 and 100, died Sunday when they were unable to escape their Napa home. A caregiver reportedly tried to rescue the couple but the wind-whipped fire quickly engulfed the home and caused the roof to cave. The couple had celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary just months earlier. Their remains were found close together.
In the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County:
Kai Logan Shepherd, 14, died as he attempted to outrun flames Monday with his parents and older sister. His body was found in the driveway, his aunt Mindi Ramos said online.
The boy was among the eight people killed in that fire. He and his family were in the northern end of the valley when the blaze raced down the hill that morning. His sister and parents suffered severe burns and remain hospitalized.
“The life they knew is gone. Kai Logan is gone,” Ramos wrote on the fundraising site, generosity.com. “Our hearts are broken.”
Authorities said the family apparently left their home in two vehicles and were headed out a dirt road on a remote section of West Road when the flames arrived. The four apparently left the vehicles and ran. Kai appeared to have headed back toward their home and was found a little apart from his family.
Mendocino County investigators are going through the northern end of the valley where the fire struck looking for more bodies, assisted by students and doctors from Chico State University’s forensic anthropology department, officials said.
A donation page has been set up for the Shepherd family here.
Staff Writer Randi Rossmann contributed to this report.