A blue sky hung over the now-golden meadow at Boy Scouts Camp Tahquitz. Mid-morning sunlight shimmers through the shimmering pine above, with the mountains falling down from the south.
Charlie Morton, the hotshot firefighter who battled the 2020 El Dorado fire near the campground, often refers to the ridges overlooking the meadow as “her mountain,” said Morton’s fiancée Monica Tapia of Irvine . Whenever fire threatened a square mile area, Morton would say, “I have to go to protect my mountains,” she recalled.
On Thursday, 18 November, a monument was dedicated to Morton at the base of the meadow with a bronze plaque on a large boulder. Additionally, the name of the meadow was officially changed from “Upper Meadow” to “Charlie’s Meadow”.
Tapia said with a pride and a smile, “I think that’s right.”
Tapia said the 39-year-old crew boss with Big Bear Hotshot Firefighters was a San Diego native, but told Oceanside his home. After 13 years of working as a hotshot firefighter, Morton’s life of service came to an end on September 17, 2020, when he caught fire while defending a fire control line within the eighth mile of Camp Tahquitz. has left.
Boy Scouts Long Beach Area Council historian Paul Muhlebach said Morton’s death was the first fire-related death near Camp Tahquitz in nearly 100 years.
At the dedication, a group of Morton’s loved ones and associates gathered to remember him. Eight members of the Big Bear Hotshots were in attendance, along with members from the San Bernardino County Fire Department, the US Forest Service and the Boy Scouts.
Representatives from each organization talked about the importance of the camp to Morton and the group. In the background, a green USFS fire engine and a red County Fire Department engine stood on the edge of Charlie’s Meadow.
“(Morton) was proud of his public service and proud to protect this country’s natural resources,” said Mike Rohde, a former Scoutmaster and retired fire chief who volunteered on the memorial project. “He knew this job was as dangerous as it was important.”
That day in 2020, poor fire-weather conditions enabled the El Dorado fire to overwhelm the southern ridgeline, which Morton called his own, said Zachary Resnick, a crew boss with the Big Bear Hotshots who worked with Morton. did. Resnick said the Hotshots had to perform a “burning operation”, in which firefighters use drip torches to create their own controlled fires, to prevent the fire from moving north up Highway 38 and into the Big Bear Mountains.
“The plan worked and they put out that fire,” Resnick said. “Charles’ sacrifice was unfortunately part of that.
“He died while doing his job.”
The El Dorado fire was allegedly started by a pyrotechnic device used to generate smoke during gender-disclosure at El Dorado Ranch Park on September 5. The couple at the center of the penis, Refugio Manuel Jiménez Jr., 42, and Angelina Renée Jiménez, 29, were charged in July with involuntary manslaughter, three felony counts of causing grievous bodily injury by negligence, four counts of felony Negligently setting fire to inhabited structures and negligently setting fire to another’s property in case of misconduct.
The couple has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Muhlbach said Charlie’s Meadow is also the location where mandatory fire drills for scouts take place during each summer camp session. Muehlebach said Morton’s legacy would now need to be learned for all Scouts.
“He means a lot to us and he’s part of our lore now,” Muhlbach said.
Todd Richard, a volunteer firefighter at the County Fire Department’s Angelus Oaks station, volunteered his time to build a bench for the memorial site. The bench was carved in five days out of the trunk of a 290-year-old oak tree that weighed 8,000 pounds, said Richard, who runs the mill professionally with his company, Mountain Home Forest Management.
“We just wanted something comfortable to sit and contemplate,” Richard said.
USFS firefighters can now request future access to Charlize Meadow through the Camp Tahquitz Ranger. This aspect is important to the hotshot firefighting community, according to Resnick, who described the herd as a “quiet group of hard workers.”
“We’re not used to headlines, so when something like this happens, we can only learn from it,” Resnick said. “We have to remember that. We have to bring people out to remind them of what happened that day so that their deaths don’t go in vain.
A hotshot firefighter’s job is essentially to make sure the area is safe for other firefighters, who have to stay around and watch the line of fire, Resnick explained. Hotshots don’t get to turn around and go away, the crew boss said.
“I can’t think of a better way to be honored for him than by placing his plaque in a meadow right next to the fire that he will always be remembered for helping out,” Resnick said.