Deerhorn Valley Comes to the Help of their Neighbors

All photos used with permission from Kim Hamilton.

This is the latest update from the field 

Leann Mitsui 1 hr · .. It’s has been a looooong day. We are finding more and more ranches that have had nothing since Sunday. These animals were starving and in NEED of some serious water. Got them taken care of but if no water for weeks were in for a long ride. Is there anyone able to help with transporting water to people and animals in our community????? We have two trucks and some help from BP and a private group that’s doing the best they all can but its not enough. I know it’s been a stressful week for everyone and were all tired but put yourself in someone less fortunate a shoes. Pleas let me know if anyone can help!!

June 23, 2016 (Dearborn Valley) Nine years ago the Harris Fire tore thought the Dearborn valley, as well as Potrero and other areas. that fire was far more destructive in the number of properties, and that fire actually killed people. It was also the impetus of the formation of the Dearborn Valley Community Association, which this time around went into action to help their neighbors in need.

Kim Hamilton told us that it was social media which started the effort. Iris Gardener posted on her Facebook page a plea. It was simply a plea for food, water, for cats, dogs, horses, pigs, chickens. She pointed out that Animal Control was only doing welfare checks from places they heard from, but not everywhere. Incidentally, this was a common complaint we heard today at Morena Village. This is that Animal Control was there the first day, but then when poof. To be honest, we met Animal Control officers the first day at the Incident Command post, at the Potrero Fire Station, before it moved to the County Park.

The Descanso Neighbors donated truckloads to circle T  ranch in Descanso and the Brush Fire Party Line  and East County Emergency Updates  got the word out for donations as well. 

This was social media at it’s best. It let people know, never mind that the cell phone tower was down, and land lines were down, that people were in need.

So Hamilton put the call out, to her DVCA neighbors and in her words, “this community rocks.” The response grew like, no pun, a wildfire. Part of it, is that at least one third of the residents went thought the Harris Fire, so they remember. They needed help at one point as well. So they mobilized.
The first load of food came from people adding to the pile from what they had. Border Patrol officer Jeremy Walker is also a Dearborn Valley neighbor and he took the first load in. As Hamilton puts it, he drove from the Boulevard station, with the full support of his superiors, and put the first load into his truck and took it in. That was on the first day after Gardener’s call went out.

The total of food and water that has gone in has been at least 5 pickup loads, and they were also helped by Tracy Nelson, of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and also a local neighbor. They were helped on day four of the fire to get though the checkpoints. We heard through other means that checkpoints were getting very strict, but having a Fish and Wildlife vehicle and a border patrol vehicle on the other side, was extremely helpful. So food and water was able to reach Iris Gardener.

Iris is married to a service member, and she mostly runs Primeval Gardens. Her husband does deploy from time to time.

This is a fully organic, non GMO farm. She took losses when bombers dropped retardant on her property. While the retardant did protect quite a bit of the property, that means she lost part of her crop.

DVCA is a non profit community association, therefore it is tax deductible, and they have also been getting monetary donations, but while the evacuations have been lifted, the need is not over. So if you wish to contribute, you can get a tax deduction, and they will make sure it goes to good use.

Hamilton and others have pointed to the Lyons Valley Trading Post, who also helped. They sold the feed to them at cost, about $400 dollars, and at one point they took a load themselves. They did not even take money for gas. This is neighbor helping neighbor, even if this is more than a few miles as the crow flies.

Hamilton believes that the Border Patrol was not hampered in their efforts to do welfare checks, because, unlike County Animal Services, they did not have as much red tape, or rules and regulations. She also told us a tad more background on the Emu and the shotgun. When 32 year old Sean Michael Shepherd, took things into his own hands, he did not fire towards the officers, but to the air. That Emu was the only surviving bird of a herd, so he was trying to protect that, for the sake of his neighbor.

Hamilton also highlighted the efforts of a large animal rescue out of El Cajon. This is Rapture Horse Rescue which went into the disaster zone to take care of large animals, such as courses, and were ready for it. According to Hamilton, County Animal services were not. They were diligent in taking animals out of the zone and making sure others were fed and watered.

Shontel Grivno is Rapture Horse Rescue and as you can read above they worked hard.  

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not recognize the Circle T in Descanso, which served as a large animal shelter over the course of this disaster.

They did put out a call on social media for feed as well. People also responded, even when the County declared the large animal shelter full. People brought food for chickens, horses, pigs and other animals that needed a place to stay for the emergency.

I am sure that we are going to miss somebody among the people who helped. So if we did not mention you by name, I am sure a lot of people in Potrero, and neighboring areas thank you. So consider that an official thank you.

Fire came once again to the back country of San Diego. But people helped each other. The fire season is far from over. So we hope that there will not be any more fires, but if they do happen, the community is resilient.

Also remember, the cameras are gone. The news media is gone. But the emergency is far from over. So if you want to donate any money, to help, it will help.

Updated to correct a few errors, which were our mistake. Also to put a new call for food and water. 


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  1. Border Fire: Some Questions – Reporting San Diego

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