Category Archives: Santa Rosa

Humble Hero Saved 18 People From Deadly California Wildfire

CALISTOGA (CBS) — When the Tubbs Fire exploded outside Calistoga, it raced over a nearby ridge and into the Franz Valley. Within minutes, it was bearing down on Mayacamas Ranch, a 250-acre resort and retreat center on Mountain Home Ranch Road. David Levy, the resort’s owner, realized they had no time to spare, and had to evacuate the ranch. His longtime chef and ranch hand, Miguel Islas, ran door to door, going from cabin to cabin, telling the 18 guests on the property to get out. While others were leaving, Islas rushed to the pool to make sure no one was there, then checked all the cabins again to make sure no one was left behind, like a pilot on a downed airliner. By then, it was almost too late for Islas to get out safely himself. He drove through a wall of fire, as the ranch was consumed by the flames behind him. Islas says the wind, and the force of the fire, were so strong, it felt like someone was pushing him from behind. His car windows were so hot, he thought his car would explode. Islas had lived and worked at Mayacamas for 15 years. He kept his life savings of $16,000 in cash, in his room. He was celebrated not just for his giving spirit, but for his amazing cooking, whipping up gourmet meals for the thousands of Bay Area artists, writers, yoga practitioners and others who have been going to the ranch for years. Now, he’s lost everything. Read more at CBSSanFrancisco.com.

Santa Rosa Neighborhoods Hit Hard By Wildfires To Re-Open

SANTA ROSA (AP) — Three neighborhoods hit hard by wildfires in Northern California will re-open Friday to anxious evacuees who haven’t been back to their homes in nearly two weeks. Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder said the neighborhoods will open to residents with ID starting at 10 a.m. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports he made the announcement Thursday at a packed community meeting attended by 750 people. The meeting opened with a moment of silence for the 42 people killed by a devastating series of wildfires that started Oct. 8. But some at the meeting were upset by what they called a lack of notice. Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said one of the fires, which killed 22, started in Napa County and raced into Santa Rosa in four hours. © Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Neighborhoods Hit Hard By California Wildfires To Re-Open

SANTA ROSA (AP) — Three neighborhoods hit hard by wildfires in Northern California will re-open Friday to anxious evacuees who haven’t been back to their homes in nearly two weeks. Santa Rosa Police Chief Hank Schreeder said the neighborhoods will open to residents with ID starting at 10 a.m. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports he made the announcement Thursday at a packed community meeting attended by 750 people. The meeting opened with a moment of silence for the 42 people killed by a devastating series of wildfires that started Oct. 8. But some at the meeting were upset by what they called a lack of notice. Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner said one of the fires, which killed 22, started in Napa County and raced into Santa Rosa in four hours. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Mendocino County Wildfire Victims Made Final Phone Call

UKIAH (CBS SF) — As the flames closed in on Jane Gardiner’s Redwood Valley home early the morning of Oct. 9th, she called her step-son to tell him the fire had surrounded her house and she and her friend — Elizabeth Foster — were waiting for the fire department to rescue them. The rescue never arrived, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. The 83-year-old Gardiner and the 64-year-old Foster were two of the eight Mendocino wildfire victims whose identities were released by the coroner’s office on Thursday. The remains of the two women were discovered inside their completely burned residence on Tomki Road. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage The other victims were:
  • Kai Logan Shepherd, a 14-year-old from Redwood Valley, was found near his family residence. Officials said it appeared he was attempting to evacuate the area on foot when he was overtaken by the fire.
  • Roy Howard Bowman, an 87-year-old from Redwood Valley, and his 88-year-old wife — Irma Elsie Bowman — were found in the burnt remains of their residence on Fisher Lake Drive.
  • Steve Bruce Stelter, a 56-year-old from Redwood Valley, was found near a vehicle outside his residence in the 11300 block of West Road. It appeared he was preparing the vehicle to be used to evacuate the area when he was overtaken by the fire. The residence was completely destroyed by the fire.
  • Stelter’s girlfriend — Janet Kay Costanzo — was found in the burnt remains of the residence she shared with him.
  • Margaret Stephenson, an 86-year-old from Redwood Valley, was found in the burnt remains of her residence in the 12800 block of Tomki Rd. It appeared she was evacuating through the residence’s garage when she was overtaken by the fire. The residence was completely destroyed by the fire.

Older Couples Unable To Escape The Flames Embraced A Last Time

SANTA ROSA (AP) — Some had just celebrated marriages of half a century or longer. They spent their time volunteering and playing with grandchildren. A few had lived through both world wars. The majority of the 42 people killed in the wildfires that have ravaged Northern California were senior citizens, most in their 70s or older. Several were couples who died together, including childhood sweethearts who had grown old together. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage A 95-year-old man and his 75-year-old wife spent their final moments huddled in the wine cellar of their home where they had lived for 45 years. The oldest victim — 100-year-old World War II veteran Charles Rippey, who used a walker — is believed to have been trying to make it to his 98-year-old wife, Sara, who had limited mobility after a stroke. Their caretaker barely escaped alive before the roof collapsed and the blaze engulfed the house. An 80-year-old man never made it past his driveway after getting his 80-year-old wife into the car to escape. The two were born four days apart and died together. Some simply clung to each other until the end. Armando Berriz, 76, held his wife of 55 years, Carmen Caldentey Berriz, afloat in a swimming pool as walls of fire burned around them. He let go only after Carmen stopped breathing and the flames had burned out, laying her on the steps of the pool with her arms crossed over her chest. He then walked 2 miles to find help. “This situation has been so tragic on so many levels,” said Caroline Cicero, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “Couples who have been living together for 30, 40, 50 years, especially in their 80s and 90s, definitely might have just realized this is the end. ‘There is nothing we can do, so we’ll go out together,’ which is a beautiful thing. But it’s tragic for those left behind.” If a spouse survived, it will be an extremely painful road to recovery, especially for older people who may never heal, said Cicero, who has worked as a geriatric social worker. Authorities identified two more elderly victims on Wednesday: Monte Neil Kirven, 81, and Marilyn Carol Ress, 71. The heavy toll on older people has raised questions about whether more could have been done to alert the most vulnerable in time to escape. Among the victims were those who had survived strokes, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. They could not move fast enough to escape the speeding flames. Others likely never heard the frantic calls of friends or honking of neighbors’ cars — possibly the only warning that they were in danger. It’s only been since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that cities began drawing up emergency preparedness plans that specifically take the elderly into account, Cicero said. Some cities, such as Culver City in suburban Los Angeles, now allow people to put their names on a list that notifies officials they need priority because they are hearing impaired or have other issues that may limit their ability to evacuate quickly. But Cicero said she is not sure what could have been done in places like Santa Rosa, where a wildfire sprung up quickly and overtook homes in suburban neighborhoods and remote woods at night, giving people only minutes or, in some cases, seconds to escape. George Powell, 74, said he does not know what woke him early Monday. He looked out the window to flames and immediately woke his 72-year-old wife, Lynne Anderson Powell. She grabbed a laptop, her border collie and was driving down their mountain road within minutes. He went for his three border collies and fled 15 minutes behind her in his own vehicle. There was a huge wall of fire along the road. Powell said he realized later that he had driven past his wife’s Prius, which had gone off the road and plunged into a ravine in the thick smoke. Lynne’s burned body was found steps from her car; the dog was found burned to death inside. The couple had been married 33 years and lived in the woods in the Santa Rosa area. She had recently overcome cancer. “If I had known, I would have gone down there with her, even if it meant I would have died with her,” Powell said. “I don’t know how I’m going to cope. She was my life. “She was my life,” he repeated.

Humble Hero Saved 18 From Deadly Wildfire

KCBS_740 CALISTOGA (KCBS) — When the Tubbs Fire exploded outside Calistoga, it raced over a nearby ridge and into the Franz Valley. Within minutes, it was bearing down on Mayacamas Ranch, a 250-acre resort and retreat center on Mountain Home Ranch Road. David Levy, the resort’s owner, realized they had no time to spare, and had to evacuate the ranch.
His longtime chef and ranch hand, Miguel Islas, ran door to door, going from cabin to cabin, telling the 18 guests on the property to get out. While others were leaving, Islas rushed to the pool to make sure no one was there, then checked all the cabins again to make sure no one was left behind, like a pilot on a downed airliner. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage By then, it was almost too late for Islas to get out safely himself. He drove through a wall of fire, as the ranch was consumed by the flames behind him. He told KCBS Reporter Doug Sovern the wind, and the force of the fire, were so strong, it felt like someone was pushing him from behind. His car windows were so hot, he thought his car would explode. Islas had lived and worked at Mayacamas for 15 years. He kept his life savings of $16,000 in cash, in his room. He was celebrated not just for his giving spirit, but for his amazing cooking, whipping up gourmet meals for the thousands of Bay Area artists, writers, yoga practitioners and others who have been going to the ranch for years. Now, he’s lost everything. Sovern brought him back to the ranch this week, and Islas, and Levy, were both stunned by the devastation. “It’s like a bomb went off. There’s no crater, ” says Levy, “but everything is just incinerated.” “We have nothing. There’s nothing here,” says Islas. “Nothing of the paradise.” Levy says Islas is a hero, who saved 18 lives, but the chef says he’s no hero. He stood sobbing as he poked through the ruins of his beloved kitchen, and searched in vain for something he could salvage. “This was my life. I feel like part of my life is gone,” Islas said. “Seeing my kitchen, I feel like I’m losing a part of my heart.” Islas did find one thing that survived the flames: a small, terra cotta sculpture of seven people in a circle, arms around each other, holding each other up. Levy says it will be a symbol of renewal, and of whatever rises from the ashes of Mayacamas Ranch. The fire left Islas homeless, unemployed, and broke. But he’s already looking to a future, of rebuilding and recovery. “I have my life,’ Islas says. “That’s all that matters. My lives, and the lives of the other people.” A Gofundme account has been setup to help Islas — https://www.gofundme.com/mayacamas-ranch-chef. A GoFundme account has also been setup to help the Ranch — https://www.gofundme.com/MayacamasRecovery.

Wildfires Closer To Containment As Rain Approaches Bay Area

SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Firefighters continued to increase containment of the fires burning in Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties Thursday as officials raised the number of structures destroyed to nearly 7,000, authorities said. Containment of the 36,432-acre Tubbs Fire increased to 92 percent as of Thursday morning. It started around 9:45 p.m. on Oct. 8 near Calistoga and spread quickly to Santa Rosa and elsewhere in Sonoma County. Containment of the 16,552-acre Pocket Fire in the Geyserville area increased 10 percent to 73 percent since Wednesday morning, Cal Fire officials said. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage Containment of the 34,398-acre Nuns Fire in Sonoma County and the 20,025-acre Nuns Fire in Napa County reached 82 percent as of Thursday morning.  Full containment is expected by next Tuesday, according to Cal fire. The four fires have destroyed 6,900 structures, damaged 330 and threatened 2,435 structures. “The estimates are in structures and our mostly homes, but also includes commercial structures and outbuildings like barns and sheds,” said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. Twenty three of the 42 deaths in California’s October fires happened in a Sonoma County wildfire, making it the third deadliest in California history. A 1993 Los Angeles fire that killed 29 people was the deadliest, followed by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire that killed 25. The Atlas Fire that started around 9:50 p.m. on Oct. 8 off Atlas Peak Road south of Lake Berryessa is 85 percent contained Thursday morning. It has burned 51,624 acres in Napa and Solano counties. The fire destroyed 442 structures, damaged 77 and threatened 876 structures. Reports of increased containment comes as a weather system is expected to dump rainfall on the Bay Area, particularly in the North Bay.

According to KPIX 5’s Neda Iranpour, the mountains of the North Bay could see up of 0.75 inches of rain through Friday morning, while up to 0.25 inches of rain could fall on the North Bay valleys. The rest of the Bay Area could see up to 0.10 inches of rain. TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

Wildfire Victims Warned Of Toxic Materials In Ash

SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) – As the effort to rebuild from the wildfires in wine country begins, authorities have issued a warning about toxic materials in ash and debris. “I want to want to warn people there are risks once we allow people to areas where houses have burned to the ground,” Mayor Chris Coursey said Wednesday. “These are risks to your health and financial risks.” Sonoma County says it is working on a re-entry plan for affected homeowners to visit what is left of their properties. No cleanup work will start until sites have been declared safe and secure. WINE COUNTRY WILDFIRES: Continuing Coverage “There can be chemicals and asbestos and lead, plus plastic particles. All of that within that debris,” Christine Sosko, Sonoma County’s director of environmental health, told KPIX 5. “So, we are very concerned about people rummaging through that, disturbing it, getting it to be airborne and inhaling it.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be managing the removal of toxic materials from thousands of fire-scorched properties. Materials such as batteries, paint, solvents, flammable liquids, electronic waste and any materials that contain asbestos. “It varies from structure to structure, and home to home, based on what people had stored. If they have pools, they could have chlorine, they could have had a lot of things that have been compromised due to the fire,” said Brett Gouvea of Cal Fire. “There’s a mixing of things that could have occurred. And it creates a hazardous materials environment to go in there and start sifting through things because they are no longer recognizable,” Gouvea went on to say. Sifting or shoveling settled ashes makes them airborne again, possibly exposing people to dangerous materials, including carcinogens. Homeowners are also being warned that unauthorized removal of debris and ash may jeopardize their ability to obtain financial assistance. As for a timetable on when people can return to the burned areas, there will be a town hall meeting this week to inform residents about the cleanup efforts.

Elderly Couples In Wildfires’ Path Died In Each Other’s Arms

Some had just celebrated marriages of half a century or longer. They spent their time volunteering and playing with grandchildren. A few had lived through both world wars. The majority of the 42 people killed in the wildfires that have ravaged Northern California were senior citizens, most in their 70s or older. Several were couples who died together, including childhood sweethearts who had grown old together. A 95-year-old man and his 75-year-old wife spent their final moments huddled in the wine cellar of their home where they had lived for 45 years. The oldest victim – 100-year-old World War II veteran Charles Rippey, who used a walker – is believed to have been trying to make it to his 98-year-old wife, Sara, who had limited mobility after a stroke. Their caretaker barely escaped alive before the roof collapsed and the blaze engulfed the house. An 80-year-old man never made it past his driveway after getting his 80-year-old wife into the car to escape. The two were born four days apart and died together. Some simply clung to each other until the end. Armando Berriz, 76, held his wife of 55 years, Carmen Caldentey Berriz, afloat in a swimming pool as walls of fire burned around them. He let go only after Carmen stopped breathing and the flames had burned out, laying her on the steps of the pool with her arms crossed over her chest. He then walked 2 miles to find help. “This situation has been so tragic on so many levels,” said Caroline Cicero, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “Couples who have been living together for 30, 40, 50 years, especially in their 80s and 90s, definitely might have just realized this is the end. ‘There is nothing we can do, so we’ll go out together,’ which is a beautiful thing. But it’s tragic for those left behind.” If a spouse survived, it will be an extremely painful road to recovery, especially for older people who may never heal, said Cicero, who has worked as a geriatric social worker. Authorities identified two more elderly victims on Wednesday: Monte Neil Kirven, 81, and Marilyn Carol Ress, 71. The heavy toll on older people has raised questions about whether more could have been done to alert the most vulnerable in time to escape. Among the victims were those who had survived strokes, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. They could not move fast enough to escape the speeding flames. Others likely never heard the frantic calls of friends or honking of neighbors’ cars – possibly the only warning that they were in danger. It’s only been since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that cities began drawing up emergency preparedness plans that specifically take the elderly into account, Cicero said. Some cities, such as Culver City in suburban Los Angeles, now allow people to put their names on a list that notifies officials they need priority because they are hearing impaired or have other issues that may limit their ability to evacuate quickly. But Cicero said she is not sure what could have been done in places like Santa Rosa, where a wildfire sprung up quickly and overtook homes in suburban neighborhoods and remote woods at night, giving people only minutes or, in some cases, seconds to escape. George Powell, 74, said he does not know what woke him early Monday. He looked out the window to flames and immediately woke his 72-year-old wife, Lynne Anderson Powell. She grabbed a laptop, her border collie and was driving down their mountain road within minutes. He went for his three border collies and fled 15 minutes behind her in his own vehicle. There was a huge wall of fire along the road. Powell said he realized later that he had driven past his wife’s Prius, which had gone off the road and plunged into a ravine in the thick smoke. Lynne’s burned body was found steps from her car; the dog was found burned to death inside. The couple had been married 33 years and lived in the woods in the Santa Rosa area. She had recently overcome cancer. “If I had known, I would have gone down there with her, even if it meant I would have died with her,” Powell said. “I don’t know how I’m going to cope. She was my life. “She was my life,” he repeated. Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.

Wildfire Victims Sue PG&E While Officials Continue To Investigate Cause

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The first lawsuit in the wine country wildfires was filed by a Santa Rosa couple who is blaming PG&E for the inferno that turned their home to ash. Investigators are still far from naming a cause of the devastating wildfires, but that hasn’t stopped two homeowners, from pointing the finger at PG&E. The Santa Rosa couple is suing the utility after the Tubbs Fire destroyed their home on Mocha Lane in the Coffey Park neighborhood. Jennifer Harvell says, “We raised our children there and now all we have is a plot on a map.” Her husband Wayne Harvell adds, “Everything we had is gone.” The Harvells are one of hundreds of families who lost their homes when the wind-driven flames of the Tubbs Fire decimated Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park subdivision. Now they are the first of what is expected to be a wave of lawsuits against PG&E, alleging that the utility giant’s equipment failures sparked the deadly blazes that burned over 2,800 homes and buildings. Attorney Bill Robbins said, “It is clear based on preliminary evidence here that this fire most likely started because of issues with maintenance of the PG&E power system. And unfortunately, this is not the first time this happened, but it is the most tragic.” Robbins said, “We expect this to be one of thousands of most likely cases to be filed against PG&E.” David Levine, a professor at UC Hastings School of the Law says he has seen this before, but never so early. Levine said PG&E’s “defense is going to be ‘act of God.’ The defense is going to be: this was a storm, we were not responsible for the storm.” PG&E spokesman Keith Stephens declined to comment on the lawsuit but told KPIX 5, “We’re taking out about 1.2 million trees a year to make sure our lines are safe.” We asked him if PG&E believed their power lines were safe going into the storm. Stephens said, “You know there is plenty of time for reviews and we’ll look at that. We are focused right now on life safety of those communities that have been affected by these extraordinary fires.” Attorney Frank Pitre represented some 200 of the over 500 people who filed lawsuits against PG&E after the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion, where PG&E paid out over a half a billion dollars in claims. Pitre said, “It’s a long process for PG&E. From the date of the fire to the date there was a resolution for all claims, was three years. They’re complex. It’s going to be a long process. The issue is really going to be getting to the ground and taking a look at the evidence.” PG&E has an insurance policy for $800 million for cases like this, but they’ve already given a heads-up to shareholder that the tab could possibly be higher.