Search effort grows for missing NM firefighter

AP News
Posted: Sep 03, 2013 7:51 PM

JEMEZ SPRINGS, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of people fanned out across a rugged, forested area of northern New Mexico in search of a firefighter who has been missing since Friday, but there was still no sign of him Tuesday evening.

Engine crew Capt. Token Adams vanished while checking on a report of smoke east of Jemez Springs, where he lives with his wife and young son.

Adams, who was on an ATV, failed to return to a pre-arranged meeting point with two other firefighters.

Searchers have been scouring canyons and mesa tops, through heavy timber, brush and grass. Rain hindered the search Monday, but only light rain was reported Tuesday afternoon as some 250 people aided the effort to find Adams.

The terrain — tall ponderosa pines, thick brush in many places and steep cliffs with 200-foot drop-offs — has made the search difficult.

"Obviously our concern is that something might have happened while he was in the area," U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Karen Takai said. "We have not found the ATV."

However, searchers remained hopeful because Adams, who grew up on the edge of the Sierra National Forest in California, is an experienced outdoorsman with extensive survival skills. Takai said he would have been carrying a pack with enough food for a few days and plenty of water.

Adams, a Navy veteran and a former member of the Kings River Hotshots in California, has worked in the Jemez Ranger District in northern New Mexico for more than a year. Officials said he knows the area well.

Authorities said search teams were focused on Holiday Mesa, where the last communication was received from Adams.

"We've had people in the air, people on horseback, we've had ground-pounders and we've even had the dogs out and we just have not found any indication that he's been in the area," Takai said.

A regional team was expected to take over the search, and the New Mexico National Guard was helping with at least one Blackhawk helicopter.