Charles Morton, the firefighter who died while battling a San Bernardino County wildfire sparked by gender-reveal pyrotechnics, was taken to an Orange mortuary Tuesday via an honor guard from the U.S. Forest Service and members of the California Highway Patrol.
His body was transported from the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Division to Ferrara & Lee Colonial Mortuary in Orange. Local firefighters lined the route, with some personnel standing at attention and saluting to honor Morton.
The 39-year-old firefighter was a squad boss with the Big Bear Interagency Hotshots, a team of elite specialists that works in the toughest, most remote areas of wildfires.
Morton died Thursday, according to San Bernardino National Forest officials. Authorities have not released details about his death.
He was born in San Diego and started his career in 2002 as Corspman with the California Conservation Corps at the Butte Fire Center in Magalia. He began working for the U.S. Forest Service in 2006 with the Truckee Interagency Hotshots on the Tahoe National Forest, then joined the San Bernardino National Forest in 2007.
“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. “Our hearts go out to Charlie’s loved ones, coworkers, friends and the Big Bear Hotshots. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Morton was believed to live in Orange County. He is survived by his wife and daughter, his parents, two brothers, cousins and friends, according to a statement from his family. Those who would like to send wishes or support for the family can send mail to P.O. Box 63564, Irvine, CA 92602.
The El Dorado fire broke out Sept. 5 near Yucaipa in San Bernardino County. As of Tuesday morning, the blaze had burned 22,588 acres, was 60% contained, destroyed 10 structures and resulted in 13 injuries, along with Morton’s death, according to Cal Fire. The blaze was sparked by a smoke device used at a gender reveal party.