'A True Hero': Loved Ones Mourn Firefighter Who Died Battling El Dorado Fire
BIG BEAR (CBSLA) -- The firefighter who lost his life while battling the El Dorado Fire last week has been identified by family members as Charles Edward Morton, a crew boss for the Big Bear Hotshots.
Family and friends offered prayers and support on social media after Morton's father posted a photo of his son with the caption "end of watch."
The photo has been shared almost 50,000 times on Facebook.
He's described as a "wonderful person and a true hero."
Someone else added, "I would often think about Chuck when I saw California Fires on the news. He loved his job and now he is in the arms of Jesus."
On Monday evening, the San Bernardino National Forest confirmed Morton's death in a press release.
"Charlie was a well-respected leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen in the statement. "Our hearts go out to Charlie's loved ones, coworkers, friends and the Big Bear Hotshots. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."
Morton started his 14-year Forest Service career in 2006 with the Truckee Interagency Hotshots on the Tahoe National Forest, according to the agency.
He then 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.
The Big Bear Hotshot team had been battling the El Dorado Fire and, before that, the Apple Fire in Riverside County.
The U.S. Hotshots Association posted a photo of a belt buckle after Morton's death, writing: "Rest easy brother, may the wind be at your back."
Hotshot firefighters are some of the most highly trained and are often assigned to more challenging terrain. They are a hand crew of about two dozen who work in remote areas for an extended period of time with little support.
Not much is known yet about Charles Morton, but the procession that escorted his body out of the mountains, along with the outpouring of support online, has made clear that he will be missed.
The cause of Morton's death has not been released. The Forest service said only that he "died while engaged in fire suppression operations."
CBSLA did reach out to Morton's family, who referred all comment on his death to the U.S. Forest Service.
In its statement, the agency said: "The family has asked us to share that, '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 with his baby boy.'"
The Forest Service said that cards and condolences may be sent to the Morton family at P.O. Box 63564, Irvine, CA 92602. For FedEx and/or UPS: 1 League # 63564, Irvine, CA 92602 in care of "Support for Charlie."
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