I am OK. Worse than first thought, but I am in no danger…
San Diego County 'Harris' Fire Kills 1, Injures 17
Multiple Homes Lost
POTRERO, Oct. 21, 2007 (CNS) – A wind-fueled brush fire in rural southern San Diego County that has grown to 14,000 acres killed one person Sunday and injured 17 others, including four firefighters hospitalized in serious condition.
The Sheriff's Department issued mandatory evacuations along Highway 94 for residents in Barrett Junction, Engineer Springs, Dulzura and all areas in between. The communities of Potrero, Tecate and parts of Deerhorn Valley have also been evacuated.
"This is about as worse (as) fire condition(s) can get," said Cal Fire Capt. Matt Streck, who said ground crews focused on evacuating residents rather than protecting property due to the speed of the blaze.
The fire was burning along two fronts to the northwest, with the southern "head" burning past Barrett Lake Road south of Highway 94 and the northern flank moving toward Mother Grundy Peak, Cal Fire reported.
The fire was being driven by Santa Ana winds of 30 to 35 mph, with occasional stronger gusts, according to Cal Fire.
Cal Fire said the conflagration was about 5 percent contained.
Authorities did not immediately identify the person who perished in the blaze or the circumstances or location of the death. Twelve other civilians were burned, but officials did not elaborate or provide condition reports.
"With all of the burn injuries to civilians, this indicates how extremely dangerous these fires can be," Cal Fire's Roxanne Provaznik said. "Residents are strongly advised to follow evacuation orders give by law enforcement."
The four firefighters were airlifted to the UC San Diego Burn Center. According to a Cal Fire dispatcher, the firefighters' injuries, while serious, did not appear to be life-threatening.
Authorities said the firefighters were trapped in a so-called "burn-over." They were overcome by towering flames that shot over their heads, apparently while defending a structure — similar to what happened last October when five firefighters were killed in the Esperanza wildfire in Riverside County.
David Janssen, with Cal Fire, told a reporter that the injured firefighters were expected to survive.
"They seem to be doing well," he said.
Displaced residents were being sent to Steele Canyon High School in Spring Valley, 12440 Campo Road.
Highway 94 was closed between Otay Lakes Road and Forest Gate and at Honey Springs Road, according to the California Highway Patrol.
More than 300 firefighters were battling the Santa Ana wind-fueled flames. For a time this afternoon, air tankers and helicopters were grounded due to heavy smoke, but were allowed back in the air about 5:15 p.m.
The Harris Fire was one of two brush fires burning in the county. Another blaze, dubbed the Witch Fire, between Ramona and Julian also had topped 5,000 acres by late Sunday afternoon, but no injuries were reported.
With much of Southern California under a Red Flag warning, meaning an increased risk of wildfires because of dry and windy conditions, brush fires were also burning in Orange, Riverside and Los Angeles counties, threatening structures and prompting evacuations. However, the only reported fatality so far has been in the Harris fire.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the seven-county Southern California region because of the fires.
Copyright © 2007 KABC-TV and City News Service (CNS). All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.