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Potrero man escapes Coyote Fire near origin of wildfire; family's home burned

Potrero man escapes Coyote Fire near origin of wildfire; family's home burned
Posted at 5:40 PM, Aug 24, 2023

POTRERO, Calif. (KGTV) - An East County man is recounting a harrowing escape from the flames of the Coyote Fire, near the likely origin of the fire.

“I could feel heat coming off of the fire,” said Donovan Felix, 20.

Just past noon last Thursday, cellphone video shows the flames that surrounded Felix, as he drove past the flames near his home of Coyote Holler Road.

“I could feel it in my car. It was just radiating on me,” said Felix.

Two hours before, Felix had been watching TV in his rented trailer home, his family's home of more than 7 years, when two men knocked at the door.

He believes they were wearing hard hats and safety vests, and didn't identify themselves.

“They wanted to take measurements of trees and stuff. It was something about a power line.” said Felix.

Felix says he saw them working in their yard, before leaving after an hour. An hour after that, Felix went for a walk.

The wind was blowing hard. He says moments into the walk, there it was. Some 60 feet away, on a neighboring property, a small patch of brush was burning.

“Basically in shock, I rushed back into the house, thinking to myself constantly, ‘Okay, this is happening. This is happening,’” said Felix.

Felix called his dad, who told his to get out, with their dog.

By that time the fire had spread close to the home.

After Felix drove past the fire, those flames quickly exploded that day, as the Coyote Fire spread.

The next day, he saw news coverage of his home on fire.

“Watching it, just felt melancholy. A lot of memories growing up in that house,” said Felix.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Cal Fire declined to comment on whether they've spoken to the men who were working near the origin of the fire.

As Felix's family deals with the aftermath, they're focused on what wasn't lost.

“Very grateful. No one was hurt. I don't know what would have happened if I had just decided to take a nap or something,” said Felix.

The Coyote Fire burned nearly 500 acres, destroying two homes and an outbuilding.

The Felix family did have renters insurance, but it will cover less than half of their lost property.

A GoFundMe campaign has been started to aid their recovery.