Dog of Missing Calif. Firefighter Found; Searcher Bitten by Rattlesnake

June 22--A local hiker found the dog of missing off-duty Arcadia firefighter Mike Herdman, officials said at a news conference Sunday in Fillmore.

The hiker found the dog about 45 minutes before a scheduled news conference at 2 p.m., Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said, speaking in the parking lot at the Tar Creek trailhead in Fillmore.

The dog, Duke, was found sitting in the shade near a restroom at the Dough Flats parking lot, about 10 to 12 miles from where the animal and Herdman were seen last. The dog was exhausted but "appears to be in good health," Dean said.

Search-and-rescue teams put in over 4,600 hours of volunteer hours, Dean said at the conference. They searched 50 square miles.

Seventy-two people were searching Sunday afternoon, according to sheriff's Sgt. Carl Patterson. Capt. Don Aguilar said no one would search Sunday night because of the recent injuries.

On Monday, the search would be "reduced to a limited but ongoing scale," Dean said.

"We will not stop searching the backcountry," he said.

A helicopter will continue to fly over the area in the coming days as part of the reduced search effort, Aguilar said.

"As the days go on it's going to be hard for the hopes of finding him alive," Aguilar said.

Arcadia Fire Chief Kurt Norwood thanked the search volunteers, Ventura County Fire Department, the Sheriff's Office and other agencies for their efforts.

"We feel very positive and are expecting Mike to be found," Norwood said.

Deputy Chief Mike Lang, also with the Arcadia Fire Department, spoke on behalf of Herdman's relatives, who said they were not giving up.

Lang urged people to be careful in the wilderness.

"Don't become a victim. Know what you're doing," Lang said.

Since the first day of the search, personnel from Los Angeles, Kern, Fresno and Orange counties have been involved, officials said.

Herdman, 36, vanished the night of June 13, when he was two days into a hiking trip with a fellow firefighter. He chased after Duke while barefoot and wearing a T-shirt and shorts and has been missing since.

The German shorthaired pointer mix had been seen several times before being found. The dog was detected barking Friday night by one of the two unmanned aircraft being used in the search, but crews could not spot him, officials said.

Five searchers have been injured in the search for Herdman, including Fillmore Assistant Fire Chief Bill Herrera, officials said.

Herrera was in intensive care and stable at Los Robles Hospital & Medical Center in Thousand Oaks on Sunday, according to hospital officials. Sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Donoghue said Herrera was bitten by a rattlesnake Thursday. He was receiving an antivenin treatment and was expected to face a long recovery.

Another searcher was injured Wednesday when he sprained his ankle, and two others were treated for heat exhaustion Thursday, Donoghue said.

Herdman and his hiking companion, Taylor Byars -- also a firefighter with the Arcadia department -- started their four-day hike June 11 at Dough Flats and stopped to camp at night.

After Herdman disappeared, Byars hiked out of the area, hoping Herdman would be waiting for him at the end of the trail. Byars instead found Herdman's empty car parked near the trailhead and told authorities about 9 p.m. Sunday.

Herdman had experience backpacking in the backcountry and is an outdoors enthusiast, officials have said.

Herdman, of Dana Point, has been with the Arcadia department for 7 1/2 years and has been a paramedic for about six years.

Copyright 2014 - Ventura County Star, Calif.

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