Missing hiker sparks brush fire in canyon

Missing hiker sparks brush fire in canyon

31 Ocotber 2013

published by http://alpenhornnews.com

USA — A hiker reported missing since Tuesday, Oct. 22 when he ventured into the San Bernardino National Forest below Crestline is responsible for setting what one official called “an escaped warming fire.” The out-of-control blaze charred a 600-square-foot area of dry brush in a remote area of Coldwater Canyon around 2 p.m. last Sunday.

The blaze, dubbed the “Narrows Fire” by firefighters due to its location south of the Narrows section of Highway 18, elicited an immediate response from three air tankers and a water-dropping helicopter based at the nearby U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Air Tanker Base in San Bernardino. According to scanner reports, the aircraft were unable to drop retardant directly onto the fire due to its location at the bottom of a narrow canyon. However, the aircraft circled the area for over an hour in case the flames climbed out of the canyon. In the meantime, ground crews were able to quickly quell the slow-moving blaze.

The missing hiker, Rodney Trumbo, 55, reportedly a transient, was airlifted from the scene of the out-of-control fire by sheriff’s helicopter 40-King to a staging area at nearby Arrowhead Springs. From there, he was transported by ambulance to Loma Linda University Medical Center. Sheriff’s officials said Trumbo complained of pain and appeared to be dehydrated.

Trumbo’s girlfriend reported him missing to authorities around 8 p.m. on Oct. 22 when he didn’t arrive at her home in Redlands as planned. She told authorities that Trumbo, who hikes through the rugged area often, had called her on his cell phone, saying he was injured and needed help. A subsequent search by the sheriff’s helicopter crew was unsuccessful in locating the apparently stranded hiker.

According to local sources, Trumbo is a transient who frequents the mountain area and at one time resided in a motor home parked across the street from a gas station in Rimforest. Superior Court records reveal that Trumbo has been convicted twice for possession of controlled substances. He is due in court today (Thursday, Oct 31) for a pre-trial hearing related to his arrest on August 20 for possession of a controlled substance.

Noting that Trumbo may be held liable for fire suppression costs, USFS spokesman John Miller told The Alpenhorn News Monday he didn’t know whether Trumbo would be prosecuted for igniting an illegal fire in the forest at the height of the autumn fire season. He said lost or injured hikers are ill advised to set fires in the forest to attract attention or warn others of their plight. “It’s my understanding that this was an escaped ‘warming fire,’ not a warning fire. Either way, neither are permitted or advised.”

Reminding that warning fires in the past have resulted in large fires, Miller advises hikers to stay on established trails and to let family and friends know their route of travel and estimated time of arrival. He suggests hikers entering remote areas use a GPS device that transmits to satellites and lets search and rescue crews pinpoint their exact location. “Those devices can save significant time in locating lost and injured hikers.”

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