The firefighter killed while battling the El Dorado fire in San Bernardino County was identified Monday as Charles Morton, a 14-year veteran with the U.S. Forest Service who led the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Squad.
Morton died Sept. 17. He was 39.
Morton served for 14 years with the U.S. Forest Service, beginning with the Truckee Interagency Hotshots in the Tahoe National Forest, then the Mill Creek Interagency Hotshots, Engine 31, Engine 19 and the Big Bear Interagency Hotshots in the San Bernardino National Forest.
“Charlie was a well-respected leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times,” Vicki Christiansen, U.S. Forest Service chief, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Charlie’s loved ones, co-workers, friends and the Big Bear Hotshots. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Morton is survived by his wife, daughter, parents and two brothers.
The El Dorado fire erupted 12 days before Morton’s death, when a family threw a gender-reveal party in a park near Yucaipa, igniting a pyrotechnic device that emitted colored smoke. Southern California was in the throes of a record-setting heat wave that weekend, and the flames raced across dry, grass-covered hillsides and into the San Bernardino National Forest.
The El Dorado fire has burned 22,500 acres in San Bernardino and Riverside counties and was 60% contained as of Monday evening. Ten structures have been destroyed and another six damaged.