Four Forest Service workers died last Thursday while fighting a fire in the San Bernardino National Forest in California. Killed were Mark Loutzenhiser, 44, the Engine Captain, and three members of NFFE-IAM Local 1558; Jason McKay, 27; Jess McLean, 27; and Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20. A fourth NFFE-IAM member, Pablo Cerda, 23, remains in critical condition.
“We are deeply saddened to learn that our brothers in the Forest Service lost their lives in the line of duty,” said Rick Brown, President and DBR of Federal District 1. “These men died heroically, protecting the lives of California citizens. It demonstrates the tremendous sacrifice Forest Service workers make every day when they put their lives on the line to protect us,” said Brown.
Vigils have been held at several churches and fire stations for Cerda, who underwent surgery Friday, and to pray for the families of the fallen firefighters.
“Our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and co-workers of the men who died,” said Government Employees Director Frank Carelli, “and our prayers also go out to Brother Cerda during this critical time.”
The blaze, believed to be arson, turned deadly when fast-moving winds shifted suddenly, consuming the crew. By yesterday, the winds had all but disappeared, and officials reported the fire fully contained as of last night, having burned about 63 square miles.