By Miriam Raftery
June 29, 2016 (Potrero) -- The Border Fire destroyed five homes, ravaging lives and memories. In Potrero, one of the families whose home burned had already suffered a devastating loss.
Their son, Army Sgt. Brud Cronkrite, was killed in Karbala, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired into a nearby building while he was on a security patrol during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004. He was born and raised in Potrero, before joining the Army and deploying first to Kuwait, then Iraq. He was 22 years old when he lost his life in service to his country.
His mother told NBC7News that the family has now lost everything. A sign honoring the memory of Brud Cronkrite, who was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, still stands at the I-8 overpass at Buckman Springs Road in Pine Valley. He was memorialized by the State Legislature is buried at Fort Rosecrans.
Family and fellow soldiers posted memories of Brud at a Fallen Heroes Memorial site. Brud’s brother, Billy,wrote, “He was a real true American hero who loved his country and his job as a soldier.I will do my best to live my life to the fullest and carry on your memory. He is my hero and I feel him with me always.”
Major W. Thomas Burns called Cronkrite a “true patriot,” adding, “He took care of his soldiers and continued to do so till the time he fell. He was a good friend to those fortunate enough to know him.”
One Cronkrite family member witnessed the home burn to the ground, adding to the anguish, NBC 7 reported.
No list has yet been published with names of the other families who lost homes. However a search is underway for Jim Keefe and his girlfriend, Kylie, who have not been seen since the Border Fire charred their property. County Animal Services has rescued some dogs left at the property, but could not save them all. The couple’s van and trailer were also left behind, leading neighbors to fear for their safety and organize search efforts today, as ECM reported. The Sheriff Search and Rescue Team has also been deployed.