A wildfire burning in the rugged border community of Potrero, California, has destroyed five homes, including the home of the family of an Army sergeant killed in Baghdad.
With this devastating blow, the family of late Army Sgt. Brud Cronkrite told NBC 7 they have now truly lost everything.
As of 6:20 a.m. Thursday, Cal Fire officials confirmed the Border Fire – burning since Sunday in Potrero, located approximately 42 miles southeast of downtown San Diego – had scorched 6,840 acres and was 20 percent contained.
The Cronkrites are one of five families who have lost their homes to the fire. Cal Fire said 200 homes in the area remain threatened by the blaze.
According to the Cronkites, one of their family members stayed near the home and watched it burn to the ground. That family member was not hurt but watching his home go up in flames was incredibly painful.
The family has been through much heartache.
In 2004, the Cronkrites’ son was killed in a grenade attack in Baghdad while serving overseas. Army Sgt. Brud Cronkrite’s life of service is memorialized in his community, as the Interstate 8 bridge over Potrero is named after him, a green sign still standing near the freeway.
The Border Fire forced evacuations for 700 residents of Potrero, including siblings Rosa Ruiz and Harper McDonald. The pair hiked for miles Wednesday to check on their livestock, which had to be left behind amid evacuations Monday.
Not knowing if their animals were alive was extremely difficult on the siblings.
“Frankly, [I felt] kind of awful worrying the whole drive in and over the last couple days,” Ruiz said.
“Animals, they’re my friends. Our critters,” her brother McDonald said.
The cause of the Border Fire remains under investigation.
Cal Fire said 1,901 personnel continued to battle the blaze Thursday as the fifth day of the fire wore on. In addition to multiple homes lost in the fire, 12 outbuildings have been destroyed.