PD Editorial: In remembrance of those who lost the most

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Read remembrances of the fire victims here

Wildlife biologist Monte Kirven will be remembered for his work in saving peregrine falcons from extinction in the 1970s due to the widespread use of DDT. Years after scaling cliffs to rescue threatened falcon eggs, Kirven would teach biology and ecology at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Sharon Rae Robinson, who lived in the northern hills of Santa Rosa, will be remembered for her artistic creations, including one that remains with the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Dan Southard, 71, who lived on Bennett Ridge Road, was known for going to the gym five times a week — until the age of 65. Christina Hanson, a 27-year-old living in Larkfield-Wikiup, loved to dance and will be remembered for her vivacious spirit. Her family and friends say she wasn’t going to let the fact that she needed the help of a wheelchair to get around either confine nor define her.

These are just a few of the stories of 40 North Bay residents who perished in the firestorms of October. Their narratives were carefully assembled and published in Sunday’s edition (“Remembering Who We Lost”) starting on the front page. These profiles are moving, honoring but, most of all, heart-breaking.

The youngest of the victims were 14-year-old Kai Logan Shepherd and his sister 17-year-old Kressa Jean Shepherd. Kai, an eighth-grade student at a middle school in central Mendocino County, was known for his love of sports and his interest in learning the saxophone. Kressa, a junior in high school, was known for her love of art and devotion to her family. Both were victims of a wildfire that trapped the family in their hillside home above Redwood Valley.

The oldest victim was 101-year-old Tak-fu Hung, who, as a young man, fought in the war against Mao Zedong’s army in China. The victory of the Communist army forced him to leave his native land. Years later, he ended up in the Bay Area and eventually made his home in Sonoma County 24 years ago. He overcame many trials in his life, but he wasn’t able to flee the flames that consumed his Santa Rosa home on Oct. 9.

Some of the victims were couples in their senior years who perished together. Some died in their cars, apparently unable to raise the garage doors to complete their escapes. One, Carmen Berriz, 75, a native of Cuba, died as she and her husband tried to wait out the fire while trying to stay submerged in the pool of a friend’s home off Mark West Springs Road. Eventually, however, the smoke was too much.

We encourage readers to give these stories a read. If you missed them, they’re available online at pressdemocrat.com. Click on “North Bay Fire Memoriam” at the top of the page.

Much has been written about the devastation that ensued in the hours and days following the outbreak of the fires on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9. But no loss was greater than this — the loss of our neighbors, friends and family members. We owe it to these individuals to pay attention to how they perished so as to improve how local communities respond to such catastrophes in the future in hopes that we never experience something like this again. But most of all we owe it to them to know their life stories, to ensure they are remembered for being more than fire victims. These profiles are a good start.

Read remembrances of the fire victims here

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