$50,000 reward approved for Esperanza fire witness

Esperanza fire engine 57This afternoon the Riverside County (California) Board of Supervisors voted to give a $50,000 reward to a person who provided key testimony that helped to convict Raymond Lee Oyler of five counts of murder and 37 counts of arson, including starting the 2006 Esperanza fire and many others. The testimony was vital in Oyler’s conviction. The witness was not identified because of a concern for their safety, and the fact that they were harassed after the trial.

The Supervisors only awarded half of the $100,000 that had been offered by the county for the arrest and conviction of the arsonist. They did not say why they did not award the entire $100,000. Outside donors pledged another $400,000.

On October 26, 2006, five U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighters were entrapped on the Esperanza fire near Cabazon, California . 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 Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley, who was injured along with the other four, passed away on October 31. The five firefighters comprised the crew of a wildland engine, Engine 57, from the San Bernardino National Forest. They were assigned to a state managed fire approximately 60 miles east of Los Angeles and were entrapped while protecting a structure.

Oyler was sentenced to death for starting the Esperanza fire, which in addition to killing the USFS engine crew, burned 43,000 acres and destroyed 39 homes.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.