Next Wednesday, Oct. 26, marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Esperanza Fire that took the lives of five of our U.S. Forest Service firefighters.
Living in the vicinity of the Alandale Guard Station where those five were stationed, I am reminded often of their suffering and sacrifices on that dreadful morning, and of the pain their families, friends and co-workers have endured since that day in 2006.
Out of respect for those people these five young men left behind, the San Bernardino National Forest administration has placed a limitation on media access to their local employees during this significant anniversary period.
I still remember the eerie call from Jack that early morning while he was traveling to work. How he could see a long string of fire stretching from the valley up the mountain.
How unbelievable that such a wildfire could happen so late in the year.
How within the next hour of that call, tragedy would strike an engine crew trying to protect a home from an extremely erratic inferno started by an arsonist known as Raymond Lee Oyler.
Because I lived closest to the fire, I had traveled toward the scene to cover it. JP learned first that a tragedy had occurred and that the fire was intense. He called me back. The fire did make its way to that area where I had parked my car to talk to District Ranger Laurie Rosenthal who was just learning of the tragedy.
Let us never forget our heroes that day:
• Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser
• Fire Engine Operator Jess “Gus” McLean
• Asst. Fire Engine Operator Jason McKay
• Pablo Cerda
• Daniel Hoover/Najera
Becky Clark, Editor