Dayslong forest search for firefighter pared back

AP News
Posted: Jun 23, 2014 12:35 AM

FILLMORE, Calif. (AP) — A dog belonging to a California firefighter who disappeared during a backpacking trip was found Sunday after nine days in the wilderness, but his owner remains missing.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said a rescue effort for Mike Herdman, 36, will be scaled back after days of searching the Los Padres National Forest.

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

A hiker found the dog, named Duke, in the parking lot where Herdman had parked his car. The dog was exhausted but appeared to be in good health, Dean said.

Herdman and a friend were hiking June 13 when Duke ran off and the firefighter chased after his pet barefoot and wearing only shorts.

Officials have said that Herdman is an outdoors enthusiast with experience backpacking in the backcountry.

Search crews have put in nearly 5,000 hours and scoured 50 square miles on foot, horseback and by air — including the use of two unmanned aircraft.

The dog had been spotted twice before but had eluded capture.

Officials said a helicopter will continue to fly over the search area, and a smaller crew will keep looking for Herdman.