Officials scaled back their search efforts Monday for missing Arcadia Firefighter Mike Herdman after finding few clues of his whereabouts in the past weeks.
“We don’t have any actual search teams down there today, it’s just an aerial search now,” said Capt. Don Aguilar, of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department. “That critical time, that time where we believe he is still alive, has gone by. It’s tough to survive out there past a week. We’ve given a good push on this and covered a lot of area and haven’t come up with much at all.”
A crew of six Arcadia firefighters continued to scour the forest Monday despite the officials ending their ground search, according to Beth Stogner, a spokeswoman for Arcadia Fire Department.
“They plan to be out there for the next few days, or less, until they find Mike,” Stogner said. “There’s always a chance and that’s why we’re still there.”
Stogner described Arcadia Fire Department as a close-knit family.
“We’re still remaining hopeful, remaining prayerful,” she said.
Searchers last found evidence of Herdman Tuesday, when they came across footprints about a mile south of his camp site in the Sespe Wilderness area of Los Padres National Forest. Herdman vanished June 13 while on a camping trip with fellow Arcadia firefighter, Taylor Byars. A disoriented and dehydrated Byars emerged from the forest two days later after searching for Herdman on his own.
Herdman, an experienced outdoorsman, had camped in the area several times before. His training as a firefighter taught him to survive in extreme situations. It was Byar’s first backpacking trip, according to officials.
Byars told the sheriff’s department he last saw Herdman, half dressed and barefoot, chasing after his dog, Duke.
“We can’t overlook the great blessing we feel we have been given by having Taylor Byars home safe and sound,” Stogner said. “He is trying to regain his strength and continuing to support Mike’s family and getting himself in a condition to come back to work,”
Family and friends caught Herdman’s dog Duke on Sunday after searchers reported multiple sightings of the dog throughout the week. Duke was dehydrated and needed to get fluids intravenously, according to Stogner.
“Otherwise, he is uninjured,” she said.
Search and rescue might use the dog to try to track down Herdman.
“The dog is still in a recovery situation after being out there in the wilderness for nine days,” Aguilar said. “I think they’re waiting to see how the dog recovers and if they can utilize it, but that’s a call they have to make.”
Until more evidence is found, the operation will remain by air only, he said.
Since June 16, more than 375 people have taken part in the search, contributing more than 5,200 man-hours.