Harris Fire

OUT OF THE ASHES A COMMUNITY IS REBUILT: DEERHORN VALLEY COMES TOGETHER 10 YEARS AFTER THE HARRIS FIRE

 

“It was like a warzone. Fire was everywhere.”

By Kendra Sitton

December 13, 2017 (Deerhorn Valley) -- Michelle Grimaldo got out of her car and hugged her mom goodbye on a fiery night in October of 2007. They were in the middle of the road, with flames on both sides, their way blocked by more fire. She called her husband, but they couldn't hear each other, so she just yelled “Get out! Get out! Get out!” into the phone.

A REPORTER’S REFLECTIONS ON THE FIRESTORMS OF 2007

 

 

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

Photo, left:  Harris Fire viewed from Barrett Junction, the morning of October 21, 2007

October 21, 2017 (San Diego’s East County) – Ten years ago today, I was among the first reporters on the scene when the devastating 2007 firestorms began.  I couldn’t believe that just four years after the deadly Cedar Fire, the nightmare was occurring again –on what turned out to be an even more horrific scale.  

Out of the ashes of those fires, East County Magazine and our East County Wildfire and Emergency Alerts were born, to help fill a need for critical information in real-time.

GOVERNOR PARDONS FIREFIGHTER WHO HELPED SAVE TEEN IN HARRIS FIRE

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 1, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- Governor Jerry Brown granted a Christmas Eve pardon to a firefighter who saved a teenager’s life during the Harris Fire in Potrero after suffering serious burns herself.

Brooke Linman had been convicted of firearms, drug and theft charges almost 20 years ago, but straightened her life out and began working as a firefighter in 2001. In 2007, her Cal-Fire crew was sent to help save homes in Potrero, where they helped evacuate Richard Varshock and his father, Thomas Varshock, who had been trying to defend their home against the firestorm. But  the fire engine was overcome and caught fire, forcing them all  to race on foot through a wall of flames.

FEMA TO DISASTER VICTIMS: SEND BACK EVERY PENNY

Harris Fire survivors among thousands nationwide ordered to return money to FEMA

By Miriam Raftery

May 12, 2011 (Potrero) – Donald and Veronica Lytle are stunned after receiving a letter from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) demanding that they return all of the $1,647.43 that FEMA paid them in 2007 for cleanup and temporary lodging after their home on Potrero Valley Road was damaged in the Harris wildfire. FEMA has offered no explanation for the demand, other than stating that the entire amount was an “overpayment.”

 

The Lytles say FEMA insists their home did not suffer fire damage--despite mounds of ashes blown inside and a hole knocked in the roof by a tree felled during a firestorm so extreme that it fueled its own weather system.

 

ECM editor Miriam Raftery visited Potrero during that firestorm and concidentally, interviewed the Lytles’ next-door neighbor—witnessing firsthand the devastation clearly caused by the horrific wildfire.