Firefighter Reported Missing While Battling El Dorado Fire Found Dead

YUCAIPA (CBSLA) — A firefighter who went missing in the San Bernardino National Forest while fighting the pyrotechnic-sparked El Dorado fire has been found dead, authorities confirmed Friday morning.

Crews battle the El Dorado Fire burning near Yucaipa, Calif., on Sept. 16, 2020. (U.S. Forest Service)

The firefighter was first reported missing Thursday, but the U.S. Forest Service confirmed early Friday morning that the firefighter had been found deceased.

“The incident took place on Thursday,” USFS wrote in a statement.

There was a somber procession down the San Bernardino Mountains to honor the firefighter’s life and service. Members from the California Highway Patrol and local fire departments across Southern California escorted the body down Highway 38.

The firefighter was not identified. USFS would not confirm where the death took place or if the firefighter had been separated from other crews. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department had investigators also headed to the scene.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time,” USFS wrote. “The cause is under investigation. More details will be made available as they are confirmed.”

The El Dorado fire has burned 22,071 acres and was 65% contained as of Friday evening. Four homes have been destroyed, two are damaged, and over 26,000 remain threatened.

It burned more actively on Thursday, jumping containment lines. It spotted along Highway 38 near Angelus Oaks. Crews were working to contain spot fires as they occurred and the fire remains contained to the south.

The U.S. Forest Service reported Thursday night that although it had flared up, the fire had not crossed Highway 38 to the north.

“As of this update, the El Dorado Fire has NOT crossed Highway 38,” USFS wrote in its Thursday evening update. “Please know that the firefighters working in this area are monitoring this possibility very carefully.”

The fire, however, had moved past Forsee Creek and continued to burn to the northeast towards San Bernardino Peak.

Evacuation orders remain in effect for Mountain Home Village, Forest Falls, Angelus Oaks and Seven Oaks. There was no evacuation directive for Big Bear, but officials said residents there should keep a close eye out for updates.

Highway 38 is still closed between Bryant Street to the north and Onyx Summit to the south.

The El Dorado Fire broke out on the morning of Sept. 5 at El Dorado Ranch Park in the 37000 block of Oak Glen Road. It was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party. A family was taking part in a gender reveal photo in the park, using pyrotechnics. One of the family members stayed behind and tried to extinguish the fire, CAL Fire said.

Family members could face charges including use of pyrotechnics and recklessly causing a fire, although officials emphasized that the investigation is ongoing. They could also be held responsible for costs associated with battling the fire and the damage caused by it.

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