FILLMORE (CBSLA.com) — A search expanded Friday for an off-duty Arcadia firefighter and paramedic who went missing in the Ventura County mountains a week ago.
More than 50 search and rescue crews from around the Southland, including those from Los Angeles, Orange, Fresno and Kern counties, joined Ventura County members in their effort to find 36-year-old Mike Herdman.
“These are folks that are specifically trained on how to track people. They’re trained in recognizing and interpreting footprints…not just in terms of direction, but in terms of how much weight the person is bearing, where they’re bearing their weight could they be injured. I mean, there’s a whole science to this,” Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Eric Buschow said.
Herdman was hiking last Friday with fellow firefighter/paramedic Taylor Byars at Tar Creek Trail. The two men had set up camp along the Sespe Creek when Herdman’s dog, Duke, ran away.
Byars and Herdman, who was barefoot, ran after the dog.
A short time later, the two men became separated, authorities said. Byars made his way back to the campsite, but Herdman, a seven-year firefighter veteran, and his dog never returned.
Andrew Pryor, who spoke on behalf of Byars, said Byars knew he couldn’t find Herdman on his own, so he went to get help.
“He left a pack full of supplies for Mike behind and began walking out of the creek. In doing so, he became confused, disoriented and lost himself,” Pryor said. “Taylor is absolutely devastated by this experience and we all love Mike and want him to be found.”
The effort Friday was also being aided by horseback, two helicopters, an unmanned aircraft, four search dogs and harmonicas, which are used to soothe animals.
Searchers spotted Duke near the creek Wednesday and Thursday, but were unable to get him.
“Physically, the dog looked good. He was running all over the place. Mentally, he’s frazzled because he’s not coming to anyone who calls him,” Homeland Security Agent John Reynolds said.
“The dog has shown up both times, on Wednesday and yesterday, about a mile north to northwest to where their campsite was when Mike was last seen,” Buschow said.
L.A. Animal Services have set up a trap where Duke last appeared.
“We’ve got his dog bed from home, we’ve got his toys, we got some of the owner’s clothes. So we’re hoping that will attract him to it. And then we also did place some dog food in there,” Lt. Annette Ramirez said.
Investigators said there were no signs anything suspicious happened.
“There’s no indication of foul play at this time,” Buschow said.
Meantime, four searchers have been hurt during the effort, with injuries ranging from heat exhaustion, a twisted ankle and a rattlesnake bite.
“They’re literally looking under every rock, they’re scaling huge boulders, cliffs, looking under every tree. It’s a painstaking, tedious task,” Buschow said.
“The terrain is really, really, really tough…because you don’t want to leave anything to pass because it could give a clue or it could be Mike himself,” Reynolds said.