A crew boss with the Big Bear Hotshots was identified Monday, Sept. 21, as the firefighter who died Thursday while fighting the El Dorado wildfire, started by a smoke bomb ignited during a gender reveal event in Yucaipa.
Charles Edward Morton, 39, died Thursday while battling the blaze in the San Bernardino Mountains, San Bernardino National Forest officials said. He worked as a firefighter for 18 years, 14 of which were with the U.S. Forest Service.
“Charlie was a well-respected leader who was always there for his squad and his crew at the toughest times,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said in a statement.
Morton was born in San Diego, Forest Service officials said. He is survived by his wife, daughter, parents, two brothers, cousins and friends.
Eddie C. Morton, a man who identified himself as Morton’s brother, commented on Charles Morton’s death in a Facebook post on Friday.
“This is my brother. He died last night. Doing what he loves. Fighting fire in San Bernardino,” said the post, which was superimposed over a photo of a smiling Morton wearing a brown cap and brown jacket that reads Mill Creek Hotshots. Smoke-covered mountains are in the background.
“My nephew Charlie Morton was a fabulous young man whom we are all so proud of, and it is an extreme loss to our California & Texas families. He was on duty in the El Dorado fire in California,” wrote Sid Williams, who identified himself as Morton’s uncle in a Facebook posting.
Almost all hotshot crew members are attached to the Forest Service, although some work for the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service. Most of the 100-plus crews are based in the West. Crew members hike in or are lowered by helicopter into remote areas where they cut fire breaks with the tools that they carry.
Those who would like to extend their support to Morton’s family can send mail to P.O. Box 63564, Irvine, CA 92602.
Officials have not yet provided details on how Morton was killed.