Today, March 20, marks the final day of mobile counseling services for residents of the rural East County communities affected by the Harris Fire. The October 2007 wildfire burned 90,440 acres across Dulzura, Potrero, Tecate, and Jamul. In its wake, hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, 55 people were injured, and 5 were killed. Numerous recovery efforts were put in place after the fire, including a free door-to-door counseling and community outreach service.
For the past four months, the nonprofit San Diego Foundation provided the service, but because the grant money that funded the program has run out, the program must end.
According to Brenda Wise, the Potrero-Tecate coordinator of the Harris Fire Community Recovery Team, “The mobile service was a way to reach out to as many people as possible. Some people were just so traumatized by the fire that they didn’t want to go out in public.”
Stress management was a particular focus of the mobile unit's staff, which also provided referrals for recovery and rebuilding. Wise believes that much progress has been made in helping the fire victims. “However,” she said, “I don’t believe that the community will ever fully recover from the fire. We’re talking to people from the fires in 2003 who still haven’t recovered.”
Although the mobile counseling service is ending, long-term help will still be available to the Harris Fire communities. The Harris Fire Long Term Recovery Center is located at 17945 Highway 94, in Dulzura, 619-468-6939.