We often hear about the brotherhood in the fire service, on Tuesday morning it was on full display for Charles Morton, a 14 year veteran of the U.S. Forest service and leader of the elite firefighting crew, the Big Bear Hotshots. Morton was killed fighting the El Dorado Fire in Yucaipa.
The procession of first responders made its way from San Bernardino to a mortuary in Orange County.
As they mourn the loss of one of their own, an investigation into his death is underway.
Jodi Miller, the public information officer with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department confirms their special investigations unit is looking into the death, “When the firefighter sadly lost his life fighting the fire, my department now became involved.
It’s a multi pronged investigation, Cal Fire is looking into the cause and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department is focusing on the tragedy.
“Detectives responded to the scene and are now conducting a death investigation,” says Miller.
The fire is still burning out of control, so far it’s burned over 22,500 acres, 16 homes and structures have been damaged or destroyed and 13 people including firefighters have been hurt. The community is outraged that now a firefighter was killed over a gender reveal stunt gone wrong.
“I think that’s just horrible, what a waste I mean, a gender reveal? Come on,” says Gary Hatfield, a resident of Mountain Home Village.
And many are asking why those responsible haven’t been arrested?
Miller says the process is complicated, “There’s a lot of work that goes into these types of investigations and of course a thorough investigation is imperative and that does take some time for that to happen,” she says adding the community can rest assured knowing they will release information as quickly as they can but they cannot rush the investigation.
Jason Anderson, the San Bernardino District Attorney, says their office has been receiving a lot of questions since the fire started, “We are sensitive to the concerns that people have in regards to what next steps may occur in this particular case,” adding that he’s receiving daily briefings from prosecutors who’ve been on the scene.
But Anderson says they cannot make a determination yet, “Because of its scale, because of the seriousness we have to wait until all the investigation is done before we can make any determination about what we do going forward.”
Meanwhile firefighters will continue to fight the fire with heavy hearts, never forgetting the hero who paid the ultimate price.