Monday, October 26, 2009

Engine 57

Today marks the third anniversary of the Esperanza Burnover Tragedy.

On October 26 2006, Engine 57 from the San Bernardino National Forest (BDF E57), was burned over while performing structure protection in the early stages of the Esperanza fire. The entire crew of five perished in the burnover. The western firefighting community was stunned at the loss.

Site of the Esperanza Burnover

The Esperanza fire was first reported at 0111 hrs. on Oct 26 at the southern edge of Cabazon California, an unincorporated community located eighty miles east of Los Angeles. The first engine arrived on scene about six minutes later and estimated the fire to be two acres in size. Two hours later the fire was estimated to be over five hundred acres and was displaying extreme fire behavior. The extreme growth was a result of several years of drought, high winds, low humidity and topographical features.

BDF E57, along with several other BDF engines, arrived in the fire area at about 0500 and were assigned structure protection in a sparsely populated, mountainous area. E57 selected a structure to protect and was last heard from at about 0645 via radio.

The first victims from the burnover are found just before 0800 by the captains from two other BDF engines which were spotted nearby.

Lost in the tragedy were Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, Jess McClean, Jason McKay, Pablo Cerda and Daniel Hoover - Najera.

In a previous post, I lamented that I was unable to find a monument honoring the crew of BDF E57. Some Forest Service firefighters steered me toward the Alandale Guard Station where, I was told, a monument was in fact erected. I stopped by there on a recent trip and found the monument.

The monument is on a slight rise overlooking the Alandale Guard Station, the facility where E57 was stationed. It is a serene and beautiful spot, a simple yet worthy memorial to the E57 Crew. The current E57 is visible in the background of this photograph. For me, a visual reminder that despite this loss, the business of protecting the forest must continue.

Five Schmoes who died protecting the forest and it's inhabitants from the ravages of a deliberately set wild fire. Rest in peace my green clad brothers.

Thanks for reading,



  1. Thanks, Capt. The first picture, with the new E57 in the back, is especially poignant. Appreciate the follow-up and finding of the monument. May they rest in peace and sleep with the angels.

  2. Oh man... my hat is off to them. How does one perish like that? Didnt they have enough time to leave? How horrible.

  3. This was the most tragic loss i ever heard about! God Bless those true heroes!

  4. Jordan - Tragic indeed. I saw a few of the family members at a memorial today, I am sure it was painful for them even though it's been almost five years.

    Thanks for the comment.