Fifteen years ago Tuesday, five U.S. Forest Service firefighters perished battling a monster wildfire near Idyllwild set by a serial arsonist who had ignited multiple blazes in the area and was ultimately sentenced to death.
On Oct. 26, 2006, the crew of U.S.F.S. Engine 57 was fatally injured while attempting to deploy around a house on a hillside north of Twin Pines to protect it from the Esperanza wildfire.
The catastrophic blaze consumed roughly 41,000 acres, destroying 34 homes and other buildings, as well as killing a large amount of livestock. The fire also damaged a highway before it was stopped four days later. Capt. Mark Allen Loutzenhiser, 43, and firefighters Pablo Cerda, 24, Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, Jason Robert McKay, 27, and Jess Edward McLean, 27, were victims of the conflagration, which started at the hands of former Beaumont mechanic Raymond Lee Oyler.