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Fallen Brothers» Esperanza Wildland Fire Tragedy






     Our condolences to the Loutzenhiser, McLean, McKay, Hoover-Najera, Cerda, and the United States Forest Service families. Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, 44, and FireFighters Jess McLean, 27, Jason McKay, 27, Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, and Pablo Cerda, 23, of the U.S. Forest Service San Jacinto Ranger District assigned to Engine 57 lost their lives fighting the Esperanza Wildland Fire near Cabazon, California on Thursday October 26, 2006. The fire crew was defending a home when they were overtaken by flames fanned by the Santa Ana Winds gusting at over 25 mph. The fifth member of the fire crew, Pablo Cerda, remained in critical condition at Arrowhead Medical Center with burns over 90 percent of his body and lung damage until he was removed from life support on Tuesday October 31, 2006.

     Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, 44, of Idyllwild, California, a father of five, was a 21 year veteran firefighter/EMT. Mark started his career as a Vista Grande Hot Shot and was Captain of Engine 57 for 12 years. He was also a volunteer firefighter for the Riverside County Fire Department and an active member of his community as a coach for youth sports.

     Fire Engine Operator Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont, California, was a 7 year veteran firefighter, 3 years of which was with the Vista Grande Hot Shots.

     Assistant Fire Engine Operator Jason McKay, 27, of Phelan, California, was a 9 year veteran firefighter, 4 years of which was as a Volunteer with the Adelanto Fire Department. He also served on the Mojave Greens Type II crew.

     FireFighter Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto, California, was in his second season of firefighting. He worked on the Tahquitz Type II crew in 2005 and was a seasonal employee in 2006.

     FireFighter Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley, California, was in his second season of firefighting. He previously worked on the Tahquitz Type II crew.

     The families have requested private funerals which are being arranged by the San Bernadino National Forest. There will be a public memorial service to be held on Sunday November 5, 2006 1PM at the Hyundai Pavilion at Glen Helen Park in Devore, California. A tip line has been set up. Anyone with information on the cause of the Esperanza Wildland Fire can contact the Riverside County Sheriff at (951) 922-7116.

     A memorial fund has been established to benefit the families of the fallen firefighters. Donations can be sent to:

Esperanza Firefighters
Assistance Fund

P.O. Box 1645
Riverside, CA 92502

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