SANTA ROSA (CBS SF/AP) —- The wine country wildfires that have been so destructive have also taken a terrible human toll.
On Thursday, the death toll stood at 31 – victims who were someone’s mother, wife, husband, son, daughter, sister, brother, aunt or uncle.
Early Thursday evening, the Sonoma County Sheriff announced that the coroner’s office had positively identified ten more fire victims mostly from Santa Rosa.
Those victims were:
• Carol Collins-Swasey, 76 years old from Santa Rosa
• Lynne Anderson Powell, 72 years old from Santa Rosa
• Arthur Tasman Grant, 95 years old from Santa Rosa
• Suiko Grant, 75 years old from Santa Rosa
• Donna Mae Halbur, 80 years old from Larkfield (Santa Rosa)
• Leroy Peter Halbur, 80 years old from Larkfield (Santa Rosa)
• Valerie Lynn Evans, 75 years old from Santa Rosa
• Carmen Caldentey Berriz, 75 years old from Apple Valley, CA
• Michael John Dornbach, 57 years old from Calistoga, CA
• Veronica Elizabeth McCombs, 67 years old from Santa Rosa
Earlier, seven victims were identified by their family members. They included a couple who met in grade school back in the 1920s, two beloved mothers, a teenage boy trying to escape the flames with his family and a young woman who loved music and animals.
Charles and Sara Rippey
The Rippeys lived near the Silverado golf course when the Altas Fire roared through their neighborhood early Monday.
Charles and Sara grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and met in grade school when their life-long love affair began.
“He was in sixth grade and she was in fourth grade,” their son Mike Rippey told KPIX 5. “They went to the University of Wisconsin together and have been together ever since.”
When the fire came, Rippey said his father attempted to save his mother, but died in the attempt.
“From where they found his body, he was trying to get from his room to her room,” he said. “He never made it. Even if he had gotten there, he wouldn’t have been able to get her out. She just couldn’t move well at all. And there is no way he would have left.”
Jessica Tunis screamed at her mother to run out of the burning house but Linda Tunis said she was trapped, there was fire everywhere, and the last thing she said to her daughter was that she was going die before the call dropped.
The younger Tunis immediately called 911 early Monday, but didn’t know if they rescued her 69-year-old mom before her house was leveled in wildfires that swept Northern California’s wine country.
She turned to social media, along with hundreds of others looking for loved ones. She posted a picture of her mother smiling at a café with the caption,
“Does anyone know if Journey’s End Mobile Home Park got evacuated before it burned down? I can’t find my mom, Linda Tunis.”
On Wednesday, her brother Robert Tunis picked through the debris where his mother’s house once stood, searching for clues to what happened to her.
“She’s spunky, she’s sweet, she loves bingo and she loves the beach, she loves her family,” said Jessica Tunis, crying. “Please help me find her. I need her back. I don’t want to lose my mom.”
Hours later Tunis texted an AP reporter to say her brother had found their mother’s remains among the debris.
Jessica Tunis didn’t forget to update her friends on Facebook:
“My mother’s remains have been found at her home at Journey’s End. May she rest in peace, my sweet Momma.”
Sharon lived in Reible Rd. area in Santa Rosa when the Tubbs Fire burned through her neighborhood. Her family frantically tried to locate the 79-year-old, turning to Facebook in the hopes she had escaped the flames.
On Thursday, her daughter went on Facebook to post that her mother had not escaped.
“We know she found peace in her passing,” her daughter wrote.
Kai Logan Shepherd
Kai was with his family when they attempted to flee a wildfire approaching their mountain home in Mendocino early Monday morning, according to a fundraising page posted for the family.
“We may never know all the details, and ultimately, right now, they don’t matter. Only the lives of our loved ones matter now,” the posting read. “We know they tried to escape down the driveway in a car. We know the car caught on fire and they left on foot.”
“Our sweet boy — our brave, strong, talented boy — Kai Logan Shepherd, 14 years old, had already succumbed to the fire when he was found on the driveway. We are utterly devastated. ”
Christina Hanson loved music and animals. She volunteered at an Alzheimer’s residential care facility. Her stepmother, Jennifer Watson, told the San Francisco Chronicle she was “a very happy, social and positive person.”
The 28-year-old, who used a wheelchair, lived in a Santa Rosa neighborhood next door to her father. As the flames approached her home, she attempted to reach her father.
When she couldn’t reach him, she called his ex-wife.
Little is known what happened next, but her father — Michael Hanson — was badly burned and somehow made it the hospital. He eventually was taken to the Saint Francis’ Bothin Burn Center.
Her cousin, Brittney Vinculado, said Christina had died in the blaze.
“I know that’s how he got burned,” her aunt Cathy Riordan told the paper. “(He) was trying to save her.”
Karen lived on Dogwood Drive in Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood that was devastated by the Tubbs Fire. Her home was destroyed by the fire and her niece Jeanette Scroggins joined police in searching the debris for any sign of her aunt.
Her charred car was still in the driveway.
Aycock’s family has been active on Facebook, searching for any word.
On Thursday another niece — Victoria Rilling — posted that searchers had located her aunt’s remains within the burned out home.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I say this, the sheriffs department called me to inform me that Karen was found in her home,” she wrote on a Faceobok post. “We thank you for all your support in locating her.”
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