Crews use drones to help find missing firefighter in Los Padres National Forest

A desperate search is underway for a missing firefighter who left his campsite in Los Padres National Forest a week ago to chase after his dog and never returned.
A desperate search is underway for a missing California firefighter who left his camp site a week ago to chase after his dog and never came back.

Crews are now turning to a high-tech tool to look for him in the rugged terrain of the Los Padres National Forest terrain.

For a week, search crews have scoured vast wilderness looking for Mike Herdman. Now, they are getting some extra high-tech help from drones, which are equipped with infrared cameras able to take real time video as they fly overhead.

"They're basically a force multiplier so instead of having to having 30 guys out in the field looking, beating the bush looking for this guy we can launch this air craft and cover a lot of ground," AeroVironment spokeswoman Eric Haney said.

They've called in extra man power too, including a Homeland Security Rapid Response Team. Half a dozen agencies are now searching the massive back country, an area twice the size of the Grand Canyon.

"Every footprint's included, every broken branch. That's what we're looking for," Los Angeles County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team Reserve Chief Mike Leum said.

The California firefighter was last seen chasing after his dog, Duke, wearing just a t-shirt and shorts. With no food or supplies, it took his hiking partner two days to trek out and get help.

"Our biggest concern is obviously Mike's health. We want to get him back in," Ventura County Sheriff's Department Deputy Chris Dyer said.

But friends are confident Herdman has the skills to stay alive.

"I have no doubt he can survive out there for weeks, he's just an amazing person, very very resourceful," friend Mike Macgregor said.

Herman's dog has been spotted twice, but both times Duke got away. Rescuers are hoping to lure him back with harmonicas so the dog is soothed.

That decidely low-tech tool was actually suggested by Herdman's daughter. She used to play the harmonica to get the dog's attention. Now, rescuers are hoping that same trick will lead them to Duke and back to his owner.
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