Those Who Staid Behind At Potrero

June 23, 2016 (EAST COUNTY) So we started our day with Mathew Nisso, he is the owner of the King of the Hamburger and Pizza restaurant, and he is not local. He made a point to come back across police lines and make sure the restaurant was running. This way people can relax, get a burger or pizza and be with each other. He also mentioned that animal control was there the first day, but has not been around ever since. He and others are trying to keep some of the animals that were left behind fed and watered.

We relayed this concern to the authorities. Though with the news that the evacuation order is going to be lifted, that concern should soon disappear. Moreover, all evacuations have been lifted.


As we drove down through Potrero we saw some loose cattle and horses, going around together, perhaps looking for food. We also saw a lot of electrical restoration activity, as well as telephone service. Philip Rooks, who lives on a property off Harris Ranch Road, told Reporting San Diego that he received a text that electricity was to be restored around 12:00.

Then we found Victor Mojarra, who was feeding a couple horses for a neighbor. A neighbor of his has a tank of water that is gravity driven, so he filled containers, and took some hay from his own, and went down to feed the two horses. The two animals were hungry and thirsty and were happy to munch on that, and drink water.

He also told us that while his property was fine, his neighbor’s house burned down. “He is a good neighbor he remarked.” He added that Potrero is a very small town, and that he and others are hill people. He used the Spanish word for this, “serrano,” that is somebody from the mountains. He also used the other term, that people think people like him are hillbillies.

He has been living in Potrero since 1988. When compared to the Harris fire of 9 years ago, this did not go after so many homes, and the vegetation will come back. He is one of many Mexican Americans who’s family is broken by a border, and he has family on both sides. He retired from the US Army, where he served 26 years.

Then we found Alicia Franco at the Potrero Store check point. Her son Martin was still at the property, where he decided to stay. They brought him some supplies. She said that “I am worried about my son, but he cannot leave the dogs alone.” (We later made our way to the property, and there were about five dogs)

She added that there was no water or electricity and that her son ran out of fuel for the generator, So things might spoil. To save fuel he was running that generator, as long as he had gas, for 15 minutes, max half an hour, just to try to keep things cool.

As we drove down Harris Ranch we then entered a dirt road. We followed it, and found his property. Martin said that he had a front row to the fire. He also pointed to the fire breaks that CAL FIRE bulldozers were able to build, just in case the back fire got out of control.


Phillip Rooks

Rooks is his neighbor, and he came with his wife and his toddler. As the fire broke he went down to the Potrero Store and took some photos of it. He also said that he has been trying to find out how the fire started. He had a few theories, ranging from a lit cigarette, to broken glass or metal, or maybe a spark. These are common causes for wild fires. Though he was not sure.

He also said that it “staid high on the mountain and went North East.” He also said that at one time fire crews drew water from a few ponds down by the valley where he lives. It is a small valley, that looks quite dry right now. The ponds are gone as well. They evaporated, which matches the multi year drought.

He also told Reporting San Diego that somebody left feed for animals at the Potrero Store, we asked the store on the way out and they had no idea. Brooks, like many of the local residents, took care of a neighbor’s dog as well. His family at some point did evacuate to Tecate, Mexico. HIs wife has family down there, and they felt safer. Though they did tell us that the fire jumped the border and burned a few houses down there.

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