As emergency personnel continued looking for a missing Arcadia firefighter in the Los Padres National Forest on Saturday, a record number of antivenin vials had to used to treat an assistant fire chief who was bit by a rattlesnake during the search, authorities said.
Michael Herdman, 36, was last seen on Friday, June 13, when he and a friend were camping and became separated while looking for Herdman’s runaway dog.
It took 27-year-old paramedic Taylor Byars two days to hike out of the remote Sespe Wilderness area north of the small city of Fillmore in Ventura County.
Byars was dehydrated and appeared disoriented when fishermen found him on Sunday, Sgt. Kevin Donoghue with Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said.
Search-and-rescue personnel began looking for Herdman, a member of the Arcadia Fire Department, Monday morning.
Herdman’s backpack and footprints were found on Monday, and his dog Duke was spotted multiple times on Wednesday and Thursday but never captured.
“We rely on clues to guide us to a search area … without clues we really can’t expand further because we don’t know which direction to go,” Donoghue said Saturday. “For instance, if we found the dog today that’ll be a new clue, a new location.”
Searchers were being airlifted to the areas near where Herdman was last seen and 86 planned to scour the area on Saturday, the sheriff’s office tweeted.
Members of the L.A. City Department of Animal Services were actively trying to locate Duke, Donoghue said.
“It’s a rugged terrain. It can be inhospitable, especially when you’re off trail,” Donoghue said. “There are a lot of hazards we need to watch out for.”
Multiple search-and-rescue personnel were injured during the search for Herdman, including two who suffered leg injuries while navigating uneven terrain and an man who was bitten by a rattlesnake on Thursday.
The man was flown to the Los Robles emergency room in Thousand Oaks, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office tweeted.
The hospital said that a record number of antivenin vials – 52 – were used to treat the assistant fire chief as of Saturday morning.
The man was an assistant fire chief from Fillmore who was being treated in the intensive care unit as of Saturday, Donoghue said.
Officials expressed concern that Herdman himself could be seriously injured.
“As the days go by, the concern is greater that he may be seriously injured. If the assumption is that if he is able to move around, we would have found him by now, he would have flagged us down and we would have heard him,” Sgt. Eric Buschow with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said.
He added that it was frustrating to get this far into the search without having found any sign of Herdman.
“That’s tough on everybody, especially to the family. My heart goes out to them, it’s got to be rough,” Buschow said.
The search area was described by authorities as a thick forest with deep canyons, lots of cliffs and animal activity, including bears, mountain lions and snakes.
“We haven’t lost hope. Nor will we lose hope that we’ll find Mike and get him out and get him home safely,” Capt. John Twitchell with Arcadia Fire Department said. “It’s painful. It’s the peaks and valleys, it’s highs and lows and it’s been an emotional roller coaster for all of us.”
Correction: Sgt. Kevin Donoghue name was originally misspelled.