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Wildfire Fatality Victim Identified

Evacuations were taking place in eastern Chula Vista early today, prompted by a wind-driven wildfire that killed one Tecate man and injured 21 others since it began raging in rural southeastern San Di

Evacuations were taking place in eastern Chula Vista early today, prompted by a wind-driven wildfire that killed one Tecate man and injured 21 others since it began raging in rural southeastern San Diego County.

The Harris fire, the only one in Southern California to cause a
fatality, began about 9:30 a.m. Sunday, near Harris Ranch and Potrero Valley
roads.

Thomas James Varshock, 52, died at the scene of the Harris fire, which
forced scores of evacuations and caused property damage yet estimated at more than a million as of yesterday morning.

By early evening yesterday, crews had gotten the roughly 22,000-acre
burn area roughly 5 percent surrounded, according to the state Department of Forestry, or Cal Fire.

This morning, the blaze was heading up Mount Miguel, toward Bonita.

Since it began spreading over the weekend, the blaze has damaged or
destroyed structures in Tecate, Dulzura and Barrett Junction. Details on the
property losses were not available, officials said yesterday afternoon.

Unrelentingly high winds -- in some spots, mountaintop gusts hit 100 mph
-- periodically grounded firefighting aircraft this morning, adding to the
difficulty of trying to make headway against the inferno.

Helicopters were able to begin aiding in the firefight by midday, but
conditions remained too hazardous for fixed-wing aircraft.

Yesterday morning, residents living on Mother Grundy Truck Trail and
Deer Horn Valley were evacuated to Steele Canyon High School, which was already filled with people who were cleared out of their homes Sunday.

When the campus reached capacity, evacuees were sent to Santana High
School in Santee.

Residents in Coyote Holler were sent east to Campo. Mandatory evacuation
notices were also sent to areas north of Lake Wohlford.

Areas near Honey Springs and Lyons Valley roads and all areas east
toward Cleveland National Forest were evacuated about 9:30 a.m.

In Potrero, sheriff's deputies ordered evacuations along Highway 94 for
residents in Barrett Junction, Engineer Springs, Dulzura and all points
between. Potrero, Tecate and parts of Deerhorn Valley were also evacuated.

Five firefighters and 16 civilians suffered burns and other injuries,
officials said.

Authorities said the injured crew members got trapped in a ``burn-
over.'' They were overcome by towering flames that shot over their heads,
apparently while defending a structure, but a dispatcher said their injuries
were not believed to be life-threatening.

A California Department of Forestry investigation team rolled into San
Diego late last night and checked into a downtown hotel, in preparation to
begin the probe into how the burn-over happened, according to CDF firefighter Kathleen McGowan.

More than 300 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, which had cost an
estimated $1.3 million to battle by yesterday evening, Cal Fire reported.

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