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Search for missing firefighter narrows after backpack, footprints found

Missing Arcadia firefighter's footprints found in creekbed, search area narrows

Search and rescue crews were optimistic Wednesday they would find an off-duty Arcadia firefighter who has been missing for roughly five days in the Los Padres National Forest after chasing after his dog barefoot.

Footprints and a backpack belonging to Mike Herdman, 36, were found Tuesday, but the boulder-strewn and tree-covered terrain exacerbated the effort.

Searchers also found more of Herdman’s footprints south of the campsite near a creekbed, authorities said. Crews were using bloodhounds to try to pick up his scent as the search area narrows, officials said.

"That is a good sign," said Arcadia fire spokeswoman Beth Stogner. "We hope today is the day we find him."

Herdman has been missing since chasing after his dog in the Sespe Wilderness area north of Fillmore. His friend said Herdman was barefoot and wearing only shorts and a T-shirt when he ran after the dog when it took off unexpectedly Friday night from their campsite.

After Herdman didn’t return, his friend made the two-day hike out of the forest to alert authorities.

There was no evidence Herdman had returned to the site since he’d disappeared Friday, said Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Buschow.

About 50 people searching the area on foot have to be flown in due to how remote the terrain is, authorities said. Herdman and his friend were camping about 15 miles into the forest, an area they were both familiar with.

Herdman has been an Arcadia firefighter since 2007 and is known as an avid outdoorsman. The weather during the day has been moderate and at night, it’s been “survivable,” Buschow said. He added Herdman also has access to water from a nearby creek. 

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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