Forest Service says firefighter killed on El Dorado Fire was burned over

Charles Morton was killed on the Southern California fire September 17, 2020

Charles Morton
Charles Morton, USFS photo.

A brief report released by the U.S. Forest Service states that Charles Morton who died September 17, 2020 on the El Dorado Fire in Southern California was “burned over” by the fire. The term means the fire spread to his location.  Other information released by the agency provided no information about the circumstances of the fatality other than he died during suppression activities.

The information was contained in a “72-Hour Report” dated September 24 that according to data at the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center was quietly uploaded to the site October 5, 2020.

The LA Times reported October 29 that the San Bernardino County coroner’s office confirmed that the burns were Morton’s official cause of death.

Investigators found that the El Dorado Fire was started by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party at a park in Yucaipa, California. The fire has burned 22,744 acres and has required the expenditure of nearly $40 million in suppression costs to date. As of Thursday 94 personnel were still assigned to the fire.

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

Mr. Morton was a member of the Big Bear Interagency Hotshot Crew.

Carlos Alexander Baltazar

Another Big Bear crewmember has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Carlos Alexander Baltazar’s car was found abandoned on Highway 18 near Delta Avenue by the California Highway Patrol on September 20, about 75 yards from his backpack. His sister said on the driver’s seat was his ID, a money clip with $200, and on the passenger seat was a knife.

He still has not been found after extensive searches in the area.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office said Mr. Baltazar was was off duty when he abandoned his vehicle and was not in the area of the El Dorado Fire. His family said he was distressed over Morton’s death.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said on September 28, “We have received information that possibly a Subaru was seen in the area and may have picked up Mr. Baltazar.”

Officials are asking anyone with information about Mr. Baltazar to contact the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department at (760) 956-5001.

Eldorado Hotshots featured on Vice News

October 27, 2020   |   6 a.m. MDT

Eldorado Hotshots, Vice News
Eldorado Hotshots, screenshot from Vice News

Vice News produced an excellent introduction to the world of hotshot crews. In 12 minutes they interview the Superintendent of the Eldorado Hotshots, Ben Strahan, and others on the crew, as well as a few of their family members. And importantly, they ask a former hotshot why he felt he had to move on to another job, discussing the inadequate pay federal firefighters earn, and the effects on family life by constantly having to work overtime in order to make enough money to get by.

The camera crew spent some time on the fireline with the crew, capturing video that the public rarely sees.

Vice News also produced a 30-minute podcast with the crew.