More victims found and identified in Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa fires

Lynne Anderson Powell. (Courtesy Photo)


The deadliest series of fires in California history continued to produce more heartbreak Friday as authorities reported the recovery of two more bodies in Santa Rosa and identified additional victims in Napa County.

So far, 35 victims have been identified from the fires burning since late Sunday in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Yuba counties. In Sonoma County, the toll rose to 19, from the 17 deaths reported Thursday.

On Friday, charred remains were discovered at a Santa Rosa mobile home park where two people had been missing at the start of the day.

The death toll could still rise far higher as fire crews seek to gain a stronger hold on the blazes, which remain largely uncontrolled, with many areas far too dangerous for search teams at this point.

“Still working missing persons reports,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said during a news briefing Friday evening. “Still working on remains collection and searching, unfortunately.”

Among those left behind to confront the loss was George Powell, 74, whose wife, Lynne Anderson Powell, perished in the very first hours of the Tubbs fire in Santa Rosa.

He said he hopes to reach a point where it helps to know that her death in the fire came quickly.

Powell, 72, and her husband of 33 years were in separate vehicles in desperate flight from flames that converged on their Blue Ridge Trail home above Mark West Springs Road in rural Sonoma County.

Powell left last. His wife, a former professional flutist, departed several minutes before him.

It appears now that she missed a sharp left turn en route to Mark West Springs Road — Powell said he nearly missed the same one himself — and drove off the road. She got out of the car but was overcome and died at the crash. The dog died in the car.

“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.”

The Mendocino County coroner Friday named two more of the eight victims reported to have died in the now 36,500-acre wildfire that encompasses the communities of Redwood and Potter valleys.

Authorities said the remains of Roy Howard Bowman, 87, and Irma Elsie Bowman, 88, were found inside their Fisher Lake Drive home, which was consumed in the fire. A third victim, 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd, was identified earlier this week by family.

Napa County officials also identified two more victims of the Atlas fire, doubling the number of confirmed deaths from that blaze, which has burned nearly 50,000 acres in Napa and Solano counties.

The remains of retired doctor George Chaney, 89, and Edward Stone, 79, were recovered Thursday from their Atlas Peak Road home, according to Napa County officials. A forensic search team went there to look for them after information provided to emergency authorities suggested they might not have escaped.

Officials later confirmed Chaney’s death and said they suspect the second set of remains to be those of Stone.

In Santa Rosa, search teams — some accompanied with trained cadaver dogs and drones — continued their inspection of debris and ashes at the Journey’s End mobile home park. One victim recovered there Thursday, Linda Tunis, 69, had been identified by family.

The five-hour search Friday involved about 75 people, including detectives, according to Monterey County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Joe Moses, who ran the operation.

Teams went to three locations in the mobile home park; at one, they found a body that “was pretty much ash and bone,” Moses said. “We were going to places that we have a high probability that there was someone there,” he said. Teams searched the rest of the park and didn’t find anything, Moses said.

Sonoma County sheriff’s officials could not say definitely whether the Journey’s End body was among the 19 confirmed deaths reported Friday.

“We had two missing persons being pursued in Journey’s End, and we found one of the two and they’re working on finding the second,” said Sgt. Spencer Crum, a sheriff’s spokesman.

Sheriff’s officials did not say where the second victim added to the tally Friday had been found.

Officials and others have taken note of the large share of seniors who died in the fires. Many were in their 70s, 80s and 90s, including four long-married couples.

You can reach Staff Writer J.D. Morris at 707-521-5337.