Harris wildfire death toll rises to 8

Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO -- A 27-year-old woman who died at UC San Diego Regional Burn Unit this week was caught in the Harris fire while crossing the border after attending her father’s funeral in Mexico, according to the Mexican Consulate in San Diego.

Maria Guadalupe Beltran, a suspected illegal immigrant, was the eighth confirmed fatality of last month’s wildfires.

Beltran, a Vista resident, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border near Tecate accompanied by her brother and several other migrants just before the Harris fire began Oct. 21.


Rescue crews found her in a drainage ditch near Potrero the next day. She was transported to the burn unit, where she remained in critical condition until her death Tuesday.

Beltran leaves behind her partner, Felipe Mercado, and four children, ranging in age from 14 months to 8 years.

Another migrant whose badly burned body was found Sunday on Tecate Peak has not been included in the total. The exact cause of his death has yet to be determined.

Twelve fire victims remain at the burn unit. They include eight suspected illegal immigrants, three firefighters and 15-year-old Richard Varshock, who was injured trying to save his father’s house in Potrero. His father, Thomas, 52, died in the flames.

Four suspected illegal immigrants who died in the fire have yet to be identified, according to the Mexican Consulate. The other fire fatalities were John Christopher Bain, 58, and his wife, Victoria Katherine Fox, 55, who were found in their burned-out home in Escondido.