Big Bear Hotshot firefighter vanishes while off duty; car found abandoned after crash on Highway 18

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The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on Friday asked for help finding a missing off-duty Big Bear Hotshot firefighter whose car was found abandoned five days ago.

Carlos Alexander Baltazar, 35, was last seen Sunday, the same day the California Highway Patrol located an abandoned vehicle in the remote area of Highway 18 and Delta Avenue, northeast of Big Bear.

The car had been involved in a minor collision, but it was unknown if the vehicle had been disabled because of the crash, CHP Sgt. Marcus Passow told KTLA.

Officials said they linked the car to Baltazar after his family reported him missing Thursday.

Crews conducted a search by air and on the ground, and discovered his backpack 75 yards from where the vehicle had been found earlier, a sheriff’s news release stated. K-9s tracked Baltazar’s scent but eventually lost it.

Deputies and bloodhounds are still searching the area.

Baltazar, who is part of U.S. Forest Service Interagency Hotshot Crew in Big Bear, was off duty at the time of his disappearance.

Authorities also said he was not in the area of the El Dorado Fire, which claimed the life of another Big Bear Hotshot firefighter, Charles Morton, on Sept. 17.

His family said Baltazar had been depressed since the death of Morton, who was his captain. Baltazar was also part of the team that found Morton’s body in the ruins of the El Dorado Fire.

“I think that it just weighed heavily on him — because they are so close — that he wasn’t able to help him… knowing that he couldn’t do anything for him,” his sister Veronica Baltazar said.

Family members said they don’t believe Baltazar would ever take his own life and it’s not like him not to keep in contact with his loved ones.

Baltazar had been planning to attend Morton’s memorial service Friday and it’s not like him to miss it.

“At this point, I really don’t care how he comes home. I just want my brother home,” his sister said through tears.

Baltazar is described as being Hispanic, standing at 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing about 175 pounds, according to the release. He is bald and has brown eyes.

Anyone with information is urged to call sheriff’s dispatch at 760-956-5001.

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