Remembering the victims of the Wine Country fires
At least 43 people have died in the devastating wildfires that has roared through the North Coast.
Please scroll through the remembrances on this page and leave your condolences with the links provided.
The Press Democrat remembers:
Christina Hanson, 27
Christina Hanson, was a “shining light in the lives of everyone that she touched,” family said. Relatives initially turned to social media 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 subsequent post. “Please keep her family in your prayers.”
Hanson's father, Michael, suffered severe burns in the fire but was in stable condition, Vinculado later shared on the YouCaring fundraising site.
Dr. Carmen Colleen McReynolds, 82
Dr. Carmen Colleen McReynolds was found trapped in her 1973 Mercedes-Benz still parked in the garage of her home on Kilarney Circle near the Fountaingrove Golf Club in Santa Rosa.
McReynolds grew up in a family of doctors in Colorado and spent 25 years practicing internal medicine for Kaiser Permanente in the East Bay.
The L.A. Times described McReynolds as being fiercely independent. She married and divorced young and lived for years in a Fountaingrove home that she purchased with her best friend Nadine Caligaris.
She enjoyed riding motorcycles, playing music and spending time outdoors.
Linda Tunis, 69
Linda Tunis, died at 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.
“My family is so grateful for the outpouring of support,” her daughter, Jessica Tunis, posted on Facebook. “I have been a mess, absolutely devastated. Hug and kiss your loved ones extra hard tonight.”
Karen Aycock, 56
Karen Aycock, 56, was found in the remains of 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 searching for her.
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.
Aycock was an animal lover and volunteered with local rescue organizations.
LeRoy and Donna Halbur, both 80
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 and recently celebrated their anniversary.
LeRoy served in the U.S. Army in military intelligence in Okinawa and worked for over 30 years as an account at Codding Enterprises. Donna joined the religious order of Holy Humility of Mary in her youth, but left to attend college, earning a degree in education and a graduate certificate as a literacy specialist. Donna wrote several children's books and was an elementary school teacher.
They are survived by their two sons, Timothy Lee and David Patrick Halbur, daughters-in-law Michelle Marie Halbur and Amy McCabe Heibel, and several grandchildren.
You can read their obituary here.
Lynne Anderson Powell, 72
Lynne Anderson Powell, 72, became separated from her husband George, 74, while driving away from their Blue Ridge Trail home above Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa, in separate cars.
Powell missed a sharp left turn en route to Mark West Springs Road and drove off the road. She got out of the car but was overcome and died at the crash. Their dog also died in the crash.
Powell was a former professional flutist.
Husband George, left second in their escape and had likely driven by the accident.
“I had gone by, and she was down there,” Powell said on Friday. “If I had known, I would have gone down there and died with her. She was the love of my life.”
Arthur Tasman Grant, 95,
and Suiko Grant 75
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
Carmen Caldentey Berriz, 75, of Apple Valley, near Victorville, was vacationing with family in the area when the fire struck. 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, 79
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: “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
Carol Collins-Swasey, 76, was a retired Santa Rosa real estate agent and active Red Cross volunteer. She lived on Hemlock Street near Coffey Park.
She “was quick-witted with a great sense of humor and an animal lover,” step-daughter Roxanne Swasey told ABC News.
Along with volunteering for Red Cross, Carol has worked as a volunteer for the fireworks at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, and more recently at the Sutter Hospice Thrift Store.
Carol had been married to her husband, Jim Swasey, for 27 years. Jim was out of town the night of the fire.
Typical of Carol, she wrote her own obituary, writing, ”If you are reading this, I am dead. And no, I did not look this good when I checked out.”
You can read her obituary here.
Daniel Southard, 71
Daniel Southard, 71, a retired fitness trainer and high school football coach, was found in the bedroom of his Bennett Ridge Road home.
His son Daniel mentioned on Facebook, “It's with a heavy heart I have to announce that Dan passed away in the fire early Monday morning. He was my best friend and I'm going to miss him every day. Thank you to everyone for your love and support. It means more than you know.”
Daniel was extremely proud of his son’s achievement of obtaining a degree in Chemical Engineering from U.C. Davis. Pictured at right, Derek and his father Daniel at Derek’s graduation in June of this year.
Monte Kirven, 81
Wildlife biologist Monte Kirven, who scaled cliffs to reach the nests of peregrine falcons on the brink of extinction and helped revive the threatened population, died in his longtime Santa Rosa home when the Tubbs fire burned through his Mark West Springs neighborhood. He was 81.
“He was always a naturalist, wandering around every forest or stream he could find,” said his former wife, Valerie Quate of Poway.
Kirven was social, with tall tales and an easy laugh, often showing up to a party with one of his birds. He loved to paint, his subjects usually falcons or wild oak lands.
“A lot of biologists might just rather be out in the woods, but Monte loved people,” said his fellow biologist and friend, Geoff Monk.
See Kirven's obituary here.
Valerie Lynn Evans, 75
Valerie Lynn Evans, 75, died in her Santa Rosa home in Coffey Park on Oct. 9 during the Tubbs fire. Coffey Park residents were familiar with the Evans family, partly because of their Long Horn Texan Cow, Angel, who was visible to drivers on southbound Highway 101, and who survived the fire. Her husband, Glen, also survived.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help offset family costs here.
See Evans' obituary here.
Michael John Dornbach, 57
Michael John Dornbach, 57, was visiting family on Mountain Home Ranch Road outside Calistoga, when the fires hit. He was trapped by flames when he was unable to find the keys to his brand-new truck.
Dornbach was a former longshoreman, fisherman and avid gardener.
He loved Northern California and was in the area in search of a property to place a cabin, fish and enjoy the outdoors.
Sister Laura Dornbach reported to Fox News, “He’d go up there to fuel his energy. That was one of his favorite places in the world. He loved the country. He loved the outdoors.”
Veronica Elizabeth McCombs, 67
Veronica Elizabeth McCombs, 67, died in her home on Mark West Springs Road in the early hours of the Tubbs Fire on Monday, Oct. 9. Despite, multiple attempts by family to come and retrieve her, Veronica was unable to escape the flames. The family dogs, Molly and Benny are still missing and are likely deceased.
In a prepared statement Veronica’s son Branden told the SF Gate, “She devoted her life to the love and care of our family and her community… She was our foundation. As a family we are grieving deeply and she will be missed forever.”
Mike Gabrow, 40
Mike Gabrow, perished when the Tubbs fire consumed his home in Santa Rosa.
Gabrow, was an avid outdoorsman who grew up in Idaho Falls Idaho. He worked jobs in agriculture and landscaping. In his spare time he enjoyed fly fishing and hunting.
Friends and family recall Gabrow as being very generous. His father, Victor Gabrow told the L.A. Times, “He’d give the shirt off his back to any of his friends.”
“He was my rock, my first born,” his mother Cathy Baldwin wrote on Facebook. “He always told me ‘Mom, if you need me don’t worry I got your back.’”
Lee Chadwick Roger, 72
Lee Chadwick Roger, 72, from Glen Ellen, was unable to escape her home in early hours of the Wine Country fires. She lived east of Highway 12 near Mountain Terraces Winery and Vineyard in Glen Ellen.
Marnie Schwartz, 68
Health issues kept retired English teacher Marnie Schwartz, 68 from getting out in recent years.
But there was no shortage of friends who came to honor her during a memorial service earlier this month at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa.
When the Tubbs fire swept into the city early Oct. 9, rampaging through Schwartz’s Coffey Park neighborhood, neighbors who pounded on her door and tried to warn her reported she never responded, her brother-in-law, Steve Smith, said.
Remains found in the ashes of her Hopper Avenue house indicate she died there, said Smith, a resident of Groton, New York. The Sonoma County Coroner’s Office is still trying to confirm the remains are hers, though family and friends said there is no real doubt.
Schwartz had substantial hearing loss and used a machine at night for sleep apnea that may have prevented her from realizing neighbors were trying to warn her, close friend and colleague Denise Stewart, of Fremont, said. Her two daughters thought of Schwartz as an aunt and called her that.
“She was brilliant, and she had a great sense of humor,” Stewart said.
Schwartz obtained at least two master’s degrees, including one in teaching English-language learners, family members said.
Tamara Latrice Thomas, 47
Tamara Latrice Thomas, a paraplegic woman, was burned to death Oct. 9 inside the Crestview Court Residential Care Home on Crestview Court in the city’s hard-hit Coffey Park neighborhood.
Thomas, a San Francisco native, was paralyzed by a medical condition about 10 years ago and divided her time between her hometown and the Santa Rosa board-and-care facility in the 1300 block of Crestview Court.
When the fire struck, she was unable to evacuate and was believed to have been killed in her second-floor bedroom.
Marilyn Carol Ress, 71
Marilyn Ress, afflicted with Graves' disease, was found in the remains of her bed in the Journey's End Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa.
Ress was a former nurse assistant, who was known for her kindness towards others. At Thanksgiving time, she delivered plates of hot food to neighbors who had no place to go for the holidays.
According to SF Chronicle reports, Ress was a life-long resident of Sonoma County, who attended Petaluma High School and grew up in rural Penngrove.
Tak-Fu Hung, 101
Flames from the rampaging Tubbs fire threatened from every direction when Tak-Fu Hung, 101 and his wife, Helen Hung, 76, peered into the night in search of a way out of the inferno.
But even with a wet towel draped over them, Tak-Fu Hung didn’t see how he would survive the violent storm and told his wife to try to get out on her own.
A nearly 20-year resident of Santa Rosa, Tak-Fu Hung was remarkably healthy as he approached his 102nd birthday and had only recently begun walking some of the time with a cane. Due to his age and mobility issues he was unable to escape, and perished in his home.
Hung was born in 1915 in a rural area of China's Anhui province. He had six sons and a daughter with his first wife, Lijan Ho, who died at age 46. After a long career in Taiwan as a civil engineer, he moved to San Francisco, where he retired.
An affable, engaging man who deeply loved his children and grandchildren, Hung was often the center of lively conversation and “was really good at commanding a room,” his granddaughter, Rosanne O’Hara said.
“My dad liked a party,” daughter Annie O’Hara said. “So we’re going to do that — have a party for him.
Michel Azarian, 41
Michel Azarian, a 41-year-old engineer for Santa Rosa-based Keysight Technologies, who loved to hike, travel, and document his experiences in photography, died from severe burns he sustained fleeing his Mark West Springs home during the deadly Tubbs fire.
Azarian was found before 10 a.m. Oct. 9 after a neighbor heard his cries for help and alerted a CHP officer on a motorcycle, said Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman, who, along with an ambulance crew, came to his aid as he was lying in a clearing near his heavily forested home on Redwood Hill Road.
Azarian was taken to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where doctors treated his burns for almost seven weeks before he succumbed to his injuries.
Azarian was born in Lebanon. He studied at the prestigious American University of Beirut, where he graduated at the top of his class with a degree in electrical engineering before attending the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 for his master’s degree.
He worked as engineer for several companies in the U.S. before moving to Santa Rosa in February to take a position with Keysight Technologies.
Jay Alexander, Keysight’s chief technology officer described Azarian as “very high-energy, very upbeat and friendly."
“Just a lot of energy for life and work,” he said.
In the Atlas fire in Napa County:
Sara and Charles Rippey, 98 and 100
Sara and Charles Rippey, 98 and 100, died in 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 in. The couple had celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary just months earlier. Their remains were found close together.
Dr. George Chaney, 89 and Edward Stone, 79
Dr. George Chaney, 89, and Edward Stone, 79 were unable to escape their home on Atlas Peak Road when the Atlas Fire hit Napa. Chaney was a retired doctor.
Sally Lewis, 90
Sally Lewis, 90, died in her Soda Canyon Road home, along with her caretaker, Teresa Santos, when the Atlas Fire swept through Napa County.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Sally had survived the Oakland Hills fire in 1991. When her Oakland home was destroyed in the fire, Sally moved to the Soda Canyon Road home, which her family built almost a century ago.
Widowed in 1966, Sally raised her two young daughters alone and never remarried.
“She was a severely independent woman with a great sense of humor,” her daughter, Windermere Tirados, said. “She was just a wonderful person. There was nobody like her.”
Upon learning of the fire, Windermere and her husband, Marlon, rushed to her mother’s Napa home, talking to Sally’s caretaker, Teresa, several times during the drive. Their last phone conversation was around 20 minutes before they arrived, when Teresa urged them to “Come, come, come, just come.”
The family drove past fire trucks and smashed through the front gate.
“When we got to the patio area, there was a 20-foot fire tornado,” Windermere said. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
The family hoped Sally and Teresa escaped, but neither one had.
Teresa Santos, 50
Teresa Santos, 50, was the loving caregiver of Sally Lewis. Santos had worked with Lewis five days a week for about a year.
During the Atlas, Fire Santos refused to Lewis’ side, even though she could have saved herself.
Lewis’ daughter Windermere Tirados told the L.A. Times, Santos was, “an angel sent to us definitely, to take care of my mom.”
Garrett Angel Paiz, 38
Garrett Angel Paiz, 38, died Monday, Oct. 16th while trying to negotiate winding Oakville Grade into Napa County in early morning darkness.
The CHP said he was on his way to refill a large water tanker being used to battle the Nuns fire, which had spread north from Sonoma County into neighboring Napa County.
The tanker went off the road, broke through a guardrail and plunged about 20 feet into a ravine not far from the bottom of the grade and Highway 29, authorities said.
Paiz was a volunteer firefighter with the Noel Fire Department in southwest Missouri but was working as a driver under contract to Cal Fire.
On Facebook, his brother Carlos Gabriel Paiz posted, “On behalf of our parents, we want you to know that our brother passed doing what he loved. He served others to the very end.”
In the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County:
Kai Logan Shepherd, 14
Kai Logan Shepherd, 14, died as he attempted to outrun flames with his parents and older sister. His body was found in the driveway, his aunt Mindi Ramos said.
Kai and his family were in the northern end of the valley when the blaze raced down the hill that morning. His parents suffered severe burns and remain hospitalized. His sister, Kressa died from her burns several days later.
“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.
A donation page has been set up for the Shepherd family here.
Kressa Shepherd, 17
Kressa Shepherd, a 17-year-old from Redwood Valley, died Sunday, Oct. 29 at a Sacramento hospital three weeks after sustaining severe burns in the Redwood fire in Mendocino County, her aunt said.
Shepherd was a junior at Ukiah High School. Both her legs had been amputated and she had never regained consciousness at the hospital, said her aunt, Mindi Ramos of Ukiah.
Ramos said she was advised in a telephone call from Shriners Hospital for Children that Kressa wasn’t registering pain during a change of the dressing on her burns. Doctors performed a CAT scan on her brain and according to Ramos determined she was brain-dead.
“They turned off the ventilator and let her go,” Ramos said.
A donation page has been set up for the Shepherd family here.
Steve Bruce Stelter, 56
Steve Bruce Stelter was found near a vehicle outside his home on West Road. He appeared to have been overrun by flames as he prepared to flee in the vehicle, according to officials. His home was destroyed by the fire.
Janet Kay Costanzo, 71
Janet Kay Costanzo, 71, of Redwood Valley, who was found in the burned remains of the West Road home she shared with Stelter, her boyfriend, authorities said.
Jane Gardiner, 83 and Elizabeth Charlene Foster, 64
Jane Gardiner, 83, of Redwood Valley, whose remains were found in her destroyed Tomki Road home along with those of her caregiver, Elizabeth Charlene Foster, 64, also of Redwood Valley. Gardiner and Foster had called Gardiner’s stepson around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 9, in the initial hours of the firestorm. They told him over the phone that flames surrounded the home and that they were awaiting evacuation by the fire department, sheriff’s officials said.
Margaret Stephenson, 86
Margaret Stephenson, 86, of Redwood Valley, was found in her destroyed Tomki Road home. She appeared to be in the process of fleeing through the garage when she was overtaken by the fire, authorities said.
According to the Sacramento Bee, Stephenson was a friend of Sheriff Tom Allman. She had sent him an early Halloween card days earlier, with her dressed up as a member of the Royal Family.
“She was a wonderful, delightful person,” Allman said.
Roy Howard Bowman, 87 and Irma Elise Bowman, 88
Roy Howard Bowman, 87, and Irma Elsie Bowman, 88, died in the Redwood Valley fire. The married couple was found in the remains of their home in the 4000 block of Fisher Lake Drive. Officials said the residence was completely destroyed by the fire.
Active members of the Ukiah Assembly of God, the couple helped to form a Spanish-speaking ministry at the church.
According to L.A. Times reports, Roy was a Navy veteran and a former federal employee. Irma was a former waitress.
They leave behind children and grandchildren in Oregon and Texas.
This story is ongoing. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share stories about any of the victims.
-By Press Democrat staff