San Diego

‘Smoke, Smoke, and Black Smoke': Evacuee Describes Fleeing Border Fire

"I wanna go home," said Jerry. "But I don’t even know if I got a home to go to."

Jerry Frederick was helping a friend paint his house in Potrero, California, when he first saw the smoke Sunday afternoon. 

"I seen the smoke start up," Frederick said Tuesday from a Red Cross shelter in unincorporated El Cajon. "A couple more hours, and next thing I know, the Sheriff's coming in saying, 'you got to evacuate.'"

Frederick was one of hundreds told to leave their homes as the so-called Border Fire, which started as a two acre blaze at 11 a.m. Sunday, quickly grew hundreds of acres large in the face of record-breaking heat and strong winds. 

A few hours after the blaze first started, it burned 7,500 acres, prompting a mandatory evacuation notice for residents of Potrero. 

At first, Frederick evacuated to Campo, where the first evacuee shelter was set up. A day later, evacuees moved to several different shelters as the fire spread before ending up Tuesday at the Red Cross shelter at Los Coches Creek Middle School. At noon Tuesday, the fire was 5 percent contained. 

Frederick said he still isn't sure if his home went up in flames. In his rush to leave, he did not stop home -- he brought nothing with him.

"I have what I have. My clothes on, and that’s it," he said. "Left the paintbrush in the paint cans and hauled out."

He worries his home won't be there when the fire is contained and the evacuation order lifted. 

"It's stressful," Frederick said. "I wanna go home, but I don’t even know if I got a home to go to."

He said he worries about his roommate, Buster, who he believes may have had difficulty getting out of the house. He has yet to hear from him. 

As he drove out and away from Potrero, Frederick described some of what he saw. 

"All I seen is smoke, smoke, and black smoke, and getting worse and worse," he said.

Cal Fire officials said steep terrain, dry vegetation due to the drought, winds, and hot temperatures have made the fire difficult to contain.  

Frederick praised the firefighters working day in and day out to contain the fire.

"I'm amazed with them, working in that heat," Frederick said. "It amazes me that they can even survive. It's not an easy fight."

He said he hopes everyone can go home soon. 

For the latest updates on the fire, click here. 

Contact Us