‘He always had my back’: Firefighter who died battling El Dorado Fire honored by colleagues during procession

Local news

A procession from San Bernardino to Orange on Tuesday morning honored a firefighter who died while battling one of the massive wildfires burning in Southern California.

Charles Morton died Sept. 17 while fighting the El Dorado Fire as a squad boss for the Big Bear Hotshot Crew, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The 39-year-old’s colleagues lined the street as his body was escorted by a motorcade out of the San Bernardino County coroner’s main office at around 10:15 a.m.

Ramon Herrera of the U.S. Forest Service was there to mourn his longtime friend.

“He always had my back,” Herrera said. “We were on Big Bear together 15 years ago, so I’ve known him for awhile. The Forest is going to be hurting, his family. I mean, to lose such a good man, not just a firefighter, but he was a good person. I’m going to miss him terribly. I don’t even know what else to say. I miss you, Charlie.”

Born in San Diego, Morton started his career in 2002 and joined the San Bernardino National Forest in 2007. He worked for Mill Creek Interagency Hotshots and Big Bear Interagency Hotshots. Highly trained hotshot fire crews are typically assigned to the “toughest part of a fire,” according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Morton left behind a wife, daughter, his parents, two brothers, cousins and friends.

“He’s loved and will be missed,” his family said in a statement provided by the Forest Service. “May he rest easy in heaven with his baby boy.”

Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen described Morton as “a well-respected leader who was always there for his crew at the toughest times.”

The agency said cards and condolences may be sent to Morton’s family at P.O. Box 63564, Irvine, CA 92602. FedEx or UPS packages can be addressed to League #63564, Irvine, CA 92602 in care of “Support for Charlie.”

A GoFundMe page to cover funeral costs, to go Morton’s family, and to create a foundation in his name had raised more than $13,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Charlie was a selfless man and he gave so much to his family, friends, and community,” the page read. “Charlie had big dreams and we would like to continue to fulfill those dreams for him.”

Tuesday’s procession, led by a U.S. Forest Service honor guard and the California Highway Patrol, ended at the Ferrara Colonia Mortuary in Orange.

Authorities have not released further information about Morton’s death, which is the only fatality reported in the El Dorado Fire. The wildfire is still burning in the San Bernardino Mountains after erupting during a gender-reveal party at a Yucaipa park on Sept. 5.

As of Tuesday, the blaze has charred 22,588 acres and was 60% contained.

Charles Morton, a firefighter who died while battling the El Dorado Fire, is seen in a photo released by San Bernardino National Forest officials.
Charles Morton, a firefighter who died while battling the El Dorado Fire, is seen in a photo released by San Bernardino National Forest officials.

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