Crews Face “Huge Challenge” in Search for Missing Firefighter

A camping partner reported 36-year-old Mike Herdman missing after a two-day hike out of the Ventura County mountains

Rescue crews searching for a firefighter in rugged Southern California mountains spotted a dog similar to the one the man was chasing when he disappeared.

The dog was seen briefly during a search that intensified Wednesday for Arcadia firefighter for Mike Herdman, 36. He disappeared while on a backpacking trip in the Los Padres National Forest.

Crews spotted a dog matching the description of Duke today, but the animal ran off before they could determine if it was Herdman's dog.

Herdman chased after his dog, Duke, on Friday during the hike near Fillmore, and he never returned, authorities said.

He was described by colleagues as a well-trained elite athlete, began Monday in the mountains above Fillmore. Herdman went missing Friday night after he and a friend arrived at their campsite -- a two-day hike from where they left Wednesday.

The friend -- fellow firefighter Taylor Byars -- hiked back out of the mountains and contacted authorities. He told the sheriff's department they were preparing to set up camp Friday night near a creekbed when Herdman's dog, a 50-pound Viszla named Duke, ran away from the camp.

Earlier, some hikers reported hearing sounds coming from a cave in the area, but a search proved fruitless.

Herdman was barefoot and wearing a T-shirt and shorts. Search teams found the Arcadia firefighter's backpack, footprints and other items near the campsite, which is out of range for cell phone communication.

Nine search-rescue team members camped overnight near the site where Herdman was last seen. Team members, including personnel from Los Angeles, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, on the ground and in the air will continue looking for Herdman Wednesday morning.

Specially trained dogs will join the search

"We're still hoping against hope we can find Mike Herdman alive," said Sgt. Eric Buschow, of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. "This is still a rescue.

"It's a huge challenge. Huge boulders, it's very remote."

Arcadia Fire Chief Kurt Norwood said Herdman, who planned to be home on Father's Day, was capable of surviving in the wilderness.

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