Owner of dogs rescued from Border Fire may be missing

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 22:23:42-04

A man who owns several dogs rescued from the burned out area of the Border Fire may be missing.

Some Potrero residents said Tuesday that they filed a missing persons report for Jim Keefe, who they call "Barefoot Jim."

"The fact that it's going on day nine and nobody's heard from him is something to be concerned about," said resident Leann Mitsui.

Residents point to Keefe's green van parked on the property as the biggest piece of evidence. The van has not moved from the burned property since the Border Fire began on June 19.

Mitsui said Keefe cared for his dogs and he would have come back by now if he evacuated ahead of the wildfire.

"He's just kind of an old hippie man," Mitsui said.

"He's a local favorite, from what I understand," said Sean Garrity, who tried burying the dogs killed by the wildfire.

"I was kind of forced to leave the property once the authorities showed up," Garrity explained. "Otherwise, I'm fairly certain I would have found a few more. There's supposed to be a few more here."

Mitsui and another neighbor said the hillside behind Keefe's property has several small caves. They feared Keefe and his wife, Kerry, who is also missing, may have hidden in one of them and died.

"I'm extremely upset. There's a lot of people that are upset," said Mitsui. "There's supposed to be an active search for Jim at this point and there's not a single person here right now."

A San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said Cal Fire has requested help from the department's Search and Rescue team to look for Keefe.

In the meantime, Mitsui said a dog nicknamed "Little Joe" and other dogs rescued from the property are recovering at the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services center in Bonita.

Animal Services officials said Tuesday the owner has not come forward.