Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Four Firefighters Killed in Suspected California Wildfire Arson

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030

    Four Firefighters Killed in Suspected California Wildfire Arson

    Four Firefighters Killed in Suspected California Wildfire Arson
    Donation Information Below

    Updated: 10-27-2006 03:07:01 PM

    By GILLIAN FLACCUS
    Associated Press Writer

    Fire crews struggled to protect homes Friday from a wind-whipped wildfire that trapped and killed four firefighters as it raced through Southern California mountains.

    The blaze in the San Jacinto Mountains, which authorities said was arson, has blackened nearly 24,000 acres, or almost 38 square miles, and already forced hundreds to evacuate. Fire officials worried that the strong wind could shift and blow flames toward populated areas west of Palm Springs.

    At one point, hundreds of mountain residents took refuge with campers in a nearby RV park where crews could protect them.

    The wildfire, the nation's deadliest in five years, was only 5 percent contained early Friday as more than 1,100 firefighters worked to protect homes and build fire lines.

    "We need to be on our business today, folks. It's serious out there for at least the next 24 hours," Tim Chavez, a fire behavior analyst, said during a morning briefing of firefighters in Beaumont.

    Forecasters predicted strong Santa Ana wind that could reach up to 60 mph, possibly threatening the communities of Hemet and Idyllwild. A "red flag warning" was in effect through Saturday night because of a mix of strong wind, low humidity and warm temperatures.

    The fire has destroyed at least five homes, and firefighters had to evacuate additional areas overnight, including a small community south of Banning.

    "Normally the fire dies down and the wind let up, but that didn't happen last night. It burned like it was daytime," Bill Peters, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry told The Associated Press.

    Fire officials were mourning the deaths of four U.S. Forest Service firefighters killed while attempting to protect a home close to where the fire began in Cabazon on Thursday. The flames came so quickly the five-person crew had no time to retreat to its engine or use portable fire shelters.

    Authorities said a $100,000 reward would be offered for information leading to the arsonist's arrest.

    Authorities haven't revealed why they think the fire was arson.

    Killed were engine Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 44, of Idyllwild; engine operator Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont; assistant engine operator Jason McKay, 27, of Phelan; and firefighter Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto.

    A fifth firefighter - identified as Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley - had burns over almost his entire body and also had severe respiratory damage, officials said.

    Loutzenhiser was a father of five, said Pat Boss, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

    The wildfire was the nation's deadliest since July 2001, when four firefighters died after being trapped by flames on a dead-end road in Washington's Okanogan National Forest.

    Thursday's deaths brought to 19 the number of California firefighters killed in the line of duty over the past year, according to the California Professional Firefighters, a lobbying organization.

    At least one civilian suffered minor injuries and 200 people in the small mountain communities of Poppet Flat and Twin Pines were forced to flee their homes, authorities said.

    In all, nearly 700 people in the area were evacuated, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told reporters in Sacramento.

    Timo Hargu, 61, said he rushed from his hilltop home with his two dogs after he looked out a window and saw the fire burning in a nearby valley.

    "The whole thing was ablaze with flame," he said. "It was the most spectacular view. A terrible view, but spectacular."

    As many as 1,000 people who had come to the Silent Valley Club RV Resort near Poppet Flat for annual Halloween events were unable to leave after firefighters closed the only road out of the community. TV footage showed vehicles racing through smoke and flames just before the road was closed.

    Firefighters said it was safer to keep the people in the RV park because the blaze was stymied by an existing firebreak around the area.

    As that fire raged, another sprung up in neighboring Orange County, about 50 miles southwest. There, firefighters were battling a brush fire that started overnight and forced about 140 people to flee a campground in the Cleveland National Forest near the city of Lake Elsinore, county Fire Capt. Steve Miller said.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=51734

  2. #2
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    Loutzenhiser, Mark

    Age: 44
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Captain
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Classification: Wildland Full-Time
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 10/26/2006
    Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
    Incident Time: 03:00
    Activity Type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
    Death Date: 10/26/2006
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    USDA Forest Service - San Bernardino National Forest
    602 S. Tippecanoe Ave.
    San Bernardino , California 92408
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Jeanne Wade-Evans

    Initial Summary:
    Captain Loutzenhiser was one of five firefighters injured while attempting to protect a home close to where the Esperanza wildfire fire began in Southern California. The firefighters were overcome sometime between 0700-0900hrs by very rapid fire progress so that the crew had no time to retreat to their engine or use portable fire shelters. Four firefighters died from injuries the day of the arson-caused incident and the fifth is in critical condition suffering from burns to over ninety-percent of his body.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Riverside County is establishing a fund to help the families of firefighters who were killed fighting the fire. Donations may be sent to the Esperanza Firefighters Assistance Fund, P.O. Box 1645, Riverside, CA 92502-1645.


    http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/applications...eath_year=2006

  3. #3
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    McLean, Jess

    Age: 27
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Fire Engine Operator
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Classification: Wildland Full-Time
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 10/26/2006
    Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
    Incident Time: 03:00
    Activity Type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
    Death Date: 10/26/2006
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Forest Service - San Bernardino National Forest
    602 S. Tippecanoe Ave.
    San Bernardino , California 92408
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Jeanne Wade-Evans

    Initial Summary:
    Fire Engine Operator McLean was one of five firefighters injured while attempting to protect a home close to where the Esperanza wildfire fire began in Southern California. The firefighters were overcome sometime between 0700-0900hrs by very rapid fire progress so that the crew had no time to retreat to their engine or use portable fire shelters. Four firefighters died from injuries the day of the arson-caused incident and the fifth is in critical condition suffering from burns to over ninety-percent of his body.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Riverside County is establishing a fund to help the families of firefighters who were killed fighting the fire. Donations may be sent to the Esperanza Firefighters Assistance Fund, P.O. Box 1645, Riverside, CA 92502-1645.

    http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/applications...eath_year=2006

  4. #4
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    Hoover-Najera, Daniel

    Age: 20
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Firefighter
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Classification: Wildland Part-Time
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 10/26/2006
    Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
    Incident Time: 03:00
    Activity Type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
    Death Date: 10/26/2006
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    USDA Forest Service - San Bernardino National Forest
    602 S. Tippecanoe Ave.
    San Bernardino , California 92408
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Jeanne Wade-Evans

    Initial Summary:
    Firefighter Hoover-Najera was one of five firefighters injured while attempting to protect a home close to where the Esperanza wildfire fire began in Southern California. The firefighters were overcome sometime between 0700-0900hrs by very rapid fire progress so that the crew had no time to retreat to their engine or use portable fire shelters. Four firefighters died from injuries the day of the arson-caused incident and the fifth is in critical condition suffering from burns to over ninety-percent of his body.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Riverside County is establishing a fund to help the families of firefighters who were killed fighting the fire. Donations may be sent to the Esperanza Firefighters Assistance Fund, P.O. Box 1645, Riverside, CA 92502-1645.

    http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/applications...eath_year=2006

  5. #5
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    McKay, Jason

    Age: 27
    Cause of Death: Caught or Trapped
    Rank: Assistant Fire Engine Operator
    Nature of Death: Burns
    Classification: Wildland Full-Time
    Emergency Duty: Yes

    Incident Date: 10/26/2006
    Duty Type: On-Scene Fire
    Incident Time: 03:00
    Activity Type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
    Death Date: 10/26/2006
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    USDA Forest Service - San Bernardino National Forest
    602 S. Tippecanoe Ave.
    San Bernardino , California 92408
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Jeanne Wade-Evans

    Initial Summary:
    Assistant Fire Engine Operator McKay was one of five firefighters injured while attempting to protect a home close to where the Esperanza wildfire fire began in Southern California. The firefighters were overcome sometime between 0700-0900hrs by very rapid fire progress so that the crew had no time to retreat to their engine or use portable fire shelters. Four firefighters died from injuries the day of the arson-caused incident and the fifth is in critical condition suffering from burns to over ninety-percent of his body.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Memorial Fund Contact and Address: Riverside County is establishing a fund to help the families of firefighters who were killed fighting the fire. Donations may be sent to the Esperanza Firefighters Assistance Fund, P.O. Box 1645, Riverside, CA 92502-1645.

    http://www.usfa.dhs.gov/applications...eath_year=2006

  6. #6
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    Mother of Firefighter Killed in California Wildfire Asks the Guilty to Come Forward

    Updated: 10-30-2006 10:59:30 AM

    By ALLISON HOFFMAN
    Associated Press Writer

    FF's Mother Calls on Arsonist
    APTN (APTN), World
    Sun 29 Oct 2006 12:43 AM EDT

    The mother of one of the four firefighters who died battling a wildfire that authorities blamed on arsonists urged those who set it to turn themselves in.

    "I firmly believe you didn't believe that things were going to turn out the way they did, but they did," said Bonnie McKay, whose son Jason, 27, died Thursday. "Don't let the remorse eat you alive. Come forward. ... I for one will try not to judge you. There is only one who can judge you."

    Meanwhile, firefighters took advantage of calm weather and dissipating Santa Ana winds Saturday, making headway against the 63-square-mile (161-square-kilometer) conflagration by dumping water and retardant on flames using a fleet of helicopters and airplanes, including a DC-10 jumbo jet.

    Still, forestry officials worried about the fire spreading in one area.

    Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry, said the southeastern flank was threatening to spread to Black Mountain, a forested area even steeper than where it is burning now that is difficult to access.

    "If it goes there, the fire is going to hell in a handbasket," said McLean from the command post in Beaumont, 90 miles ( 145 kilometers) east of Los Angeles.

    The 40,450-acre (16,180-hectare) blaze was 60 percent contained, two days after blowtorch gusts overran a U.S. Forest Service crew, killing four of its members and leaving a fifth clinging to life with burns over most of his body.

    Firefighter Pablo Cerda, 23, was in critical condition Saturday at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center after surgery Friday to remove damaged skin.

    Investigators combed the area Saturday, looking for clues on how the fire engulfed the men so quickly. They interviewed a handful of firefighters who were nearby when it happened, Al Matecko, spokesman for a national investigating team.

    A reward for information leading to the arsonist soared to $500,000 (euro394,000) Friday, as $100,000 (euro80,000) posted by Riverside County quickly multiplied with matching offers from the state, neighboring San Bernardino County, Rancho Mirage resident Tim Blixseth and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians.

    Investigators were looking into whether the wildfire was related to other blazes in recent months, including a canyon fire last weekend, though a sheriff's spokesman said there was no immediate indication of a serial arsonist.

    Residents said they saw two young men leaving the area where the fire broke out early Thursday west of the San Jacinto Mountains.

    Fire officials said there had been six other minor injuries to firefighters and, after completion of damage assessments, raised the number of destroyed homes to 27, up from earlier estimates of 10.

    Evacuation orders remained in effect for about 500 homes in Twin Pines and Poppet Flat, communities where homes burned. Residents were allowed back in for several hours to retrieve personal items and feed or remove animals.

    Some found nothing to return to.

    "There's nothing left, just a couple of walls and rubble," said Oscar Pineiro, 52, who had returned to his home in Twin Pines with his wife.

    Forecasters predicted winds would ease and temperatures would drop slightly throughout the weekend, which could help as crews work to build firelines around the blaze.

    The north side of the fire, paralleling Interstate 10, was considered well-contained. On the west flank, Highway 79 was reopened after firefighters stopped the fire's advance in that direction.

    Authorities declared the fire arson within hours of its start but have withheld details of any evidence they have. Fire officials have noted an unusual number of fires in the area in recent months, including one in a nearby canyon a week ago.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=51759

  7. #7
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    The Stories Behind The Fallen Firefighters

    Updated: 11-03-2006 10:52:14 AM

    PETER PRENGAMAN
    Associated Press Writer

    FFs Names Released
    APTN (APTN), World
    Fri 27 Oct 2006 03:41 PM EDT

    Brief sketches of the four firefighters who were killed battling a wildfire in Southern California, and a fifth firefighter who was critically burned:

    MARK LOUTZENHISER: The crew's engine captain was a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Forest Service and a certified emergency management technician who had studied fire science at Mt. San Jacinto College. He lived in Idyllwild with his wife and five children and was the assistant volleyball coach at Idyllwild School, where his three youngest children are students.

    "Mark was entwined in every part of school life here," said the school's principal, Emily Shaw. Grief counselors had been called in to talk to students.

    The school's annual talent show was canceled after Loutzenhiser's death. It was to be rescheduled and dedicated to the 44-year-old firefighter's memory.

    JESS MCLEAN: The crew's engine operator was a seven-year veteran of the Forest Service who kept a small porcelain figure of a firefighter by the door of his stucco home in Banning. McLean, 27, liked to camp and ride his motorcycle to work, said next-door neighbor Marlene Lopez.

    The blue-eyed, blond-haired firefighter lived with his wife, Karen, and their two dogs and liked to play soccer on the immaculately trimmed lawn in front of his home, Lopez said. She last saw him Tuesday when he dropped by to apologize for taking so long to complete a fence he was building between their houses.

    JASON MCKAY: The crew's assistant engine operator had been with the Forest Service for five years and had also worked as a volunteer firefighter in Adelanto. A certified emergency medical technician, he had an associate degree in fire science. McKay, 27, lived in Phelan.

    DANIEL HOOVER-NAJERA: The 20-year-old firefighter graduated in 2004 from Mountain View High School in San Jacinto. He was about to complete his second wildfire season with the Forest Service.

    A tearful Patrick Najera, Hoover-Najera's grandfather, appeared on KCAL-TV holding a copy of a newspaper with a headline reading, 'They Never Had a Chance.' "I'm going to be looking at this here for the rest of my life because I lost something very, very, very precious," he said.

    Gloria Ayala, Hoover-Najera's mother, sobbed as she recalled getting word of her son's death. She heard a knock on her door. "It was the two gentlemen dressed in uniform ... and I lost it," she said.

    PABLO CERDA: The 23-year-old firefighter, who was hospitalized in critical condition with burns over 90 percent of his body, lives in Fountain Valley with his widowed father and other family members. A graduate of the Riverside Community College Fire Academy, he was in his second year of fighting fires for the Fire Service and planned to begin studying to become a paramedic after fire season.

    "He wanted to be a firefighter, that was his dream," said Jerry Eckert, who worked with Cerda at a supermarket and had known him for 12 years.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=51757

  8. #8
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    Flames That Overran California Firefighters Were 90 Feet Tall

    Updated: 11-19-2006 10:29:14 PM
    The Associated Press


    Five firefighters who died battling an arson wildfire last month faced 90-foot-tall walls of flame that advanced at 40 mph in a terrifying firestorm fueled by howling winds and tinder-dry manzanita and chaparral, according to a new preliminary report.

    The six-page report, released late last week by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, indicates that the combination of the wind, the slope of the terrain and the type of ground cover created an explosive fire situation.

    Temperatures at the fire's leading edge reached 1,220 degrees and a column of gas and smoke from the blaze rose to 18,000 feet in the air, the report said.

    The fire swept through the mountains about 90 miles east of Los Angeles. It destroyed 34 homes and charred more than 60 square miles before being contained.

    Firefighters Jason McKay, 27; Jess McLean, 27; Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20; Mark Loutzenhiser, 43; and Pablo Cerda, 23, were overrun by flames on Oct. 26 while protecting a home in Twin Pines.

    Authorities have charged a 36-year-old auto mechanic, Raymond Lee Oyler, with arson and murder in the case. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

    CDF spokesman Daniel Berlant said the report will be used as a teaching tool for future firefighters. He declined to comment further, citing an ongoing internal investigation and the criminal case against Oyler.

    The report details the firefighters' actions in the hour leading up to their deaths, including that they were overrun by flames less than an hour after discussing strategies, conditions and safety measures with a superior.

    The fire front, fueled by the wind gusts of 50 mph, traveled at almost the exact angle of the slopes below the firefighters, adding to the blaze's spread and intensity.

    "It creates erratic, very quick-moving fire behavior," said Rose Davis, spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. "You have all of the things needed to accelerate the fire - wind, slope and fuel."


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=46&id=52064

  9. #9
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Pennsylvania
    Posts
    3,030
    Thousands Mourn 5 Fallen Wildfire Heroes

    Updated: 11-29-2006 09:23:28 AM

    By GILLIAN FLACCUS
    Associated Press Writer

    Thousands Remember Wildfire Heroes
    APTN (APTN), World
    Sun 5 Nov 2006 10:49 PM EDT

    The five men killed in the deadliest wildfire disaster in more than a decade were remembered Sunday as both heroes and regular guys at a memorial service attended by more than 10,000 people.

    The five, who were part of the crew of Engine 57, were killed Oct. 26 when a wind-driven blaze drove down as they tried to save a house in the rural community of Twin Pines, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles. A man is accused of setting the fire.

    "They loved doing their jobs, but they also loved going home afterward," said Jeanne Wade-Evans, a San Bernardino National Forest supervisor. "This time they could not go home."

    Sunday's memorial was held at a large outdoor arena in the mountains, not far from the area the firefighters protected. It began with a procession of the U.S. Forest Service honor guard with bagpipers and drummers, and a cortege of fire service vehicles.

    A huge screen positioned above a stage contained a picture of a firefighter's boots and the words "Always Remember."

    "In the simple act of lacing up their fire boots, they were actually committing themselves to protect and to serve. We assemble here together a brokenhearted congregation," said Steve Seltzner, a U.S. Forest Service chaplain who has been meeting with families of the men.

    Killed at the scene were firefighters Jason McKay, 27; Jess McLean, 27; and Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20. Mark Loutzenhiser, 43, the captain of Engine 57, died soon after at a hospital. Firefighter Pablo Cerda, 23, died a few days later.

    Fourteen firefighters died battling a wildfire in July 1994 near Glenwood Springs, Colo., according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

    Last week police arrested Raymond Lee Oyler, 36, and charged him with five counts of murder and various counts of arson for this blaze. Oyler has said he is innocent. Among those who attended Sunday's service were Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Before the ceremony, the fallen firefighters' family members stood in front of huge photos of each firefighter surrounded by bouquets of red, white and blue flowers.

    In the stands, Beth Fogle, of Idyllwild, cried softly. Fogle said she knew all five well, especially Loutzenhiser, who lived in Idyllwild and was an assistant volleyball coach at the elementary school that three of his five children attended.

    "He was strong but gentle, and just a kind man, a wonderful friend to my son," said Fogle, whose son is also a fire captain.

    Peter Brinkerhoff, 28, attended the memorial with 17 other members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots, an elite firefighting group. He said what happened made him question his own career.

    "It could just as easily have been anyone else sitting there at that house," he said of the home the firefighters were trying to save. "It just adds an element of anger, too, that it was intentionally set and totally preventable."

    At the ceremony's conclusion, a group of Forest Service fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters flew over the amphitheater as bagpipers played "Amazing Grace." The crowd stood at attention.


    http://cms.firehouse.com/content/art...Id=39&id=51863

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •