Body of missing firefighter found in California wilderness

A California firefighter who disappeared two weeks ago after chasing after his dog during a backpacking trip was found dead Friday, authorities said.

The body of Mike Herdman, 36, was found in a rugged cliff area about three-quarters of a mile and 1,200 feet above the river bottom where he was last seen June 13, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said.

A pilot who was dropping off ground searchers spotted the body, which through dental records officials identified to be Herdman.

Herdman and a friend were on a four-day backpacking trip in the Los Padres National Forest river bottom when his dog, Duke, ran off. The firefighter chased after his pet barefoot and wearing only shorts and a T-shirt.

The friend, identified as Taylor Byars, left a pack of supplies for Herdman and set off to find help.

Firefighter Drew Pryor told that Herdman had backpacked the area several times and had a lot of experience with similar terrain, but it was Byars first time on a backpacking trip.

Sgt. Eric Buchow said Byars was later found by two fisherman "disoriented, dehydrated, confused and he was lost," reported.

Buchow said the fisherman helped Byars get to authorities to set off the large-scale search.

Dean said search crews put in about 5,000 hours and scoured 50 square miles on foot, on horseback and by air — including the use of two drones.

Dean said searchers focused on areas they thought Herdman could get to because they didn't think someone without shoes would scale a 1,200-foot mountainside.

"Nobody could imagine that he was able to travel that far," the sheriff said.

Firefighters from the Fire Department in Arcadia, a suburb east of Los Angeles, looked for Herdman for more than a week, Fire Chief Kurt Norwood told KABC-TV.

At least four searchers were injured during the search, including a firefighter who was bit by a rattle snake, KTLA reported.

"We're glad that he was found, but at the same time we're sad that we lost a family member, so obviously we got heavy hearts here," Norwood said.

The cause of death is undetermined and an autopsy is planned, Dean said.

Duke was spotted twice during the search but eluded capture. A hiker spotted the exhausted dog Sunday in the parking lot where Herdman had parked his car.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.