Mendocino County identifies 5 more victims in fast-moving Redwood Valley fire

Kai Logan Shepherd (lower right) died as he and his parents and older sister attempted to outrun the Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley fire Monday, Oct. , 2017. (


Mendocino County Sheriff’s officials have identified the remaining five victims of the eight who died in the fire that burned through Redwood and Coyote valleys east of Willits, destroying more than 300 homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee.

The fast-moving blaze caught most of its victims in their homes. Three people appear to have died as they were fleeing the blaze, investigators said. They included 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd, who was running from the fire with family members. He was among the first three victims identified in the fire last week.

The newly identified victims are:

Steve Bruce Stelter, 56, of Redwood Valley, who 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, 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, 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, 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.

Last week, Mendocino County sheriff’s officials identified a Redwood Valley couple killed in the blaze, Roy Howard Bowman, 87, and his wife, Irma Elsie Bowman, 88. They died at their Fisher Lake Drive, home, which was destroyed in the fire.

The Redwood fire, which began about 10:36 p.m. Oct. 8, has burned more than 36,500 acres east of Willits. It was 85 percent contained on Thursday. Its cause remains under investigation.