Name released for forestry technician killed September 17 on Southern California fire

Charlie Morton was a Squad Boss on the Big Bear Hotshots

The U.S. Forest Service has released the name of the forestry technician who died September 17, 2020 in Southern California. Charlie Morton, a Squad Boss on the Big Bear Hotshots passed away on the El Dorado Fire .

Below is an excerpt from a message sent to all Forest Service employees by Chief Vicki Christiansen September 21 at 5:35 p.m.


Charlie Morton
Charlie Morton, USFS photo.

“Local efforts to support the firefighter fatality that occurred last Thursday, September 17th have progressed and we are now able to share more information with you. Tragically, Charlie Morton, Squad Boss on the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew, died during suppression activities on the El Dorado Fire on the San Bernardino National Forest in California. The Big Bear Hotshots are local to the San Bernardino National Forest.

“Charlie joined the San Bernardino National Forest in 2007 and worked on both the Front Country and Mountaintop Ranger Districts, for the Mill Creek Interagency Hotshots, Engine 31, Engine 19, and the Big Bear Interagency Hotshots. His family has asked us to share, “Charlie is survived by his wife and daughter, his parents, two brothers, cousins, and friends. He’s loved and will be missed. May he rest easy in heaven.

“The loss of an employee in the line of duty is one of the hardest things we face in our Forest Service family. Certainly, this is true for me as your Chief. Our hearts go out to Charlie’s coworkers, friends and loved ones. Charlie was a well-respected firefighter and leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times. We will keep the Big Bear Hotshots and the San Bernardino National Forest employees and community in our thoughts and prayers.

“Now more than ever we are reminded of the truly honorable work and sacrifices made by our wildland fire employees. They commit themselves each day, for weeks and months on end, to protecting lives and supporting communities around the country, in service to their fellow Americans. Our nation owes them all a debt of gratitude.

“We are still learning about the circumstances surrounding Charlie’s passing. We will provide information on plans for services and expressions of condolence as soon as they become available. But for now, I extend my deepest sympathies to Charlie’s coworkers, friends and loved ones. Again, they will remain in our thoughts and prayers.”


Investigators found that the El Dorado Fire was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party.

Send cards and condolences to the Morton family here:
P.O. Box 63564
Irvine, CA 92602.

For FedEx or UPS:
c/o ‘Support for Charlie’
1 League # 63564
Irvine, CA 92602.

We send out our sincere condolences for Mr. Morton’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Typos, let us know HERE. And, please keep in mind our commenting ground 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. Google+

27 thoughts on “Name released for forestry technician killed September 17 on Southern California fire”

  1. Good morning. Proper etiquette and journalistic use would be to identify him as a firefighter, a squad boss with the Big Bear IHC or Hotshots.

    Forestry technician is his administrative designation and does nothing to inform the story although it may meet some deep baseball political agenda. It is awkward and does not give the deceased the dignity he deserves.

    I know. Everybody wishes they were formally called firefighters. But they aren’t. So call them what they wanted to be called, what their family wanted them called, and what the media call them. Firefighters.

    1. The USFS treating him as a Forestry Technician in life, and a Firefighter only in death is far more demeaning than this article, which refers to Charlie by his actual job title. Lobby for changes to the system, not changes to the accurate reporting here.

    2. Frank I am currently employed forestry technician/smokejumper, former hotshot, etc… It pissed everyone off to hear the IC on a fire or the media refer to us as Firefighters. Call us by our name, forestry technician.

      If I die and they call me a firefighter I’d be rolling in my grave. Thanks, but no thanks Frank.

      1. “baseball political agenda. It is awkward and does not give the deceased the dignity he deserves.”

        I’m sorry that it’s “awkward” for you to accept that fact we are all titled Forestry Technicians, and it doesn’t sound as nice off the tongue as a “firefighter”. I guess we and continue to enable federal land agencies to continue to misinform the public and just accept it, bc that it what we “wish” we were.

        I appreciate Bill Gabbert for going against the grain and taking the “awkward” position to speak the truth.
        We either start taking a stance or continue to enable a screwed system.

    3. On the ground folks want the world to see what what our actual title, job duties and pay really are. That’s the only way it’ll get changed to what it should be. #0462 life

  2. Thanks Bill for supporting the current Wildland firefighters and referring to Charlie as a forestry technician. We are fighting to raise awareness so that all of us, including Charlie, receive the help and support needed. People won’t know their government employs us as forestry technicians if publishers don’t use truthful headlines. Again, thank you.

    RIP Charlie and I hope we can one day have a support system for fallen wildland firefighters’ families and co-workers left behind to pick up the pieces.

  3. My heart and love goes out to the family of Charlie Morton. RIP Charlie Being a a Hot shot in the past I agree is a Wildland Firefighter, He was a HOTSHOT FIREFIGHTER! He was not a Tech get your article right about his job. Look at the definition of a technician.

    tech·ni·cian
    /tekˈniSHən/
    Learn to pronounce
    noun
    a person employed to look after technical equipment or do practical work in a laboratory.
    “a laboratory technician”
    an expert in the practical application of a science.
    a person skilled in the technique of an art or craft.
    “Liszt was one of the greatest piano technicians of all time”

        1. I hear you, but we are trying to raise awareness and make some important changes. When hotshots are making ~$15/hour without benefits, yet the public thinks they are all making $100k/year then we have a problem.

          The problem is one of silence and leadership not caring. We need to bring these issues to light and then have an informed debate.

          It’s not fair to have a workforce struggling so much with financial and mental stress due to our job title and treatment at work, yet whenever one of us dies the Agency can come out and say they are a “Hero” and a “Firefighter.”

          So we are fighting for awareness. You didn’t like being called a Forestry Technician? Well help us change that for the thousands of people who are currently called Forestry Technicians every day.

          Thanks

    1. I’m a former hotshot too. My job title was Forestry Technician / Hotshot. The only time the FS would have called me a Firefighter is if I would’ve been killed in a LOD incident.

    1. Well John did you read the article?
      What: USFS forestry technician/hotshot died
      Who: Charlie Morton, RIP
      Where: El Dorado Fire, S. California
      How: ?? I could presume but that would be disrespectful

  4. My FMO is an 0301 but still active out on the fire line. If he was killed in the line of duty would you say “Name Released for Miscellaneous Administration and Program Series Killed…”

    Silly argument to incite in what should be a post recognizing Charlie Morton’s life and legacy.

    1. Billy B, What’s it like to get on the internet and lie to people in the comments section of an article naming a person who died in a fire?

      If your FMO (0301 job family) died on a fire then his official position title would be Fire Management Officer and it would be correct.

      We are simply asking to be called the same in death that they call us in life.

      https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/576945300

  5. I can certainly relate to the discussion concerning the job classification for those in the fire organization. Up until the early 1960’s the position classification system had the 456 Series for fire fighting positions.
    A debate began about changing the 456 Classification series and incorporating the positions under the GS-462 series. At the time the argument was that individuals in the GS-456 series actually spent more of their time doing forestry tech related work than fire fighting and the GS-456 series really wasn’t needed. Obviously this was the “old days” when “fire season” typically ran from mid June to mid October.
    I feel that a separate classification series would be appropriate as it would recognize the year-round nature of fire fighting positions today, and could possibly better assign the GS grade levels.
    I worked for the Forest Service from 1961 until 2000 and held both field and administrative positions.

  6. I can certainly relate to the discussion concerning the job classification for those in the fire organization. Up until the early 1960’s the position classification system had the 456 Series for fire fighting positions.
    A debate began about changing the 456 Classification series and incorporating the positions under the GS-462 series. At the time the argument was that individuals in the GS-456 series actually spent more of their time doing forestry tech related work than fire fighting and the GS-456 series really wasn’t needed. Obviously this was the “old days” when “fire season” typically ran from mid June to mid October.
    I feel that a separate classification series would be appropriate as it would recognize the year-round nature of fire fighting positions today, and could possibly better assign the GS grade levels.
    I worked for the Forest Service from 1961 until 2000 and held both field and administrative positions.

  7. Greetings Bill,
    I was just curious about my first comment that I sent in yesterday on this article. Did my comment not pass go with the edit team, because I might have used some inappropriate verbiage?
    If so, then I completely understand the copy edit rejection.
    Nonetheless, it would be very helpful to know why a comment didn’t fly with your team of editors. Of course I do know, that it may not be entirely practical to provide that information to me, because of time constraints at WT.
    I have studied your comment guidelines for this website.
    I would say to you here, that we all try to do our best to bring respectful commentary, that is relevant to the posted article on this great wildfire news platform.
    Thanks for listening and sharing always. After all, we are all just students of fire.🔥
    Cheers to WT-
    Jamie B.

  8. As a Forest Service IHC Squadleader (Forestry Technician), I thank you for using the proper title of our job in your story. And I understand why it frustrates and saddens people, “firefighter” is much more respectful and heroic sounding than “forestry technician”. It frustrates and angers me to no end that we only get this respect when we die. However, if we continue to use it at the time of death than few people outside the workforce will understand the issue. Thanks for your journalistic integrity and honesty.

    RIP Charlie, you will be missed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *