The Esperanza Fire

Meet the Author of "The Esperanza Fire"

The Esperanza Fire

Near Cabazon - Nearly 6 1/2 years ago, five firefighters were killed fighting the Esperanza fire, just west of the Coachella Valley.

Now, their stories live on in a book, "The Esperanza Fire," that may be made into a movie.

Last week, the author of the book, John Maclean, took me back to the scene, where so many lives were changed on Oct. 26, 2006.

On that day, daybreak revealed how much the Esperanza Fire had grown in just a few hours, fanned by Santa Ana winds.

A short time later, five U.S. Forest Service firefighters would die in the flames.

They were Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, Jason McKay, Mess McLean, Daniel Hoover-Najara and Pablo Cerda.

Firefighters found their burned-out truck when the smoke cleared.

Later in the day, we were told, it didn't have to happen.  The Esperanza Fire was arson, intentionally set around 1 a.m. that day.

Six days later, Raymond Lee Oyler was arrested.  Less than three years later, he was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of the firefighters.

It's an incredible story; a villain, five heroes and countless families whose lives were changed forever.

The story is available in a book written by John Maclean, who spent six years researching the fire.

He took us on a tour of the property, where the firefighters were overcome by the flames.

He showed us where the firefighters lost their lives that day  to something called an area ignition.  The flames were about a quarter of a mile away and surrounded them in just seconds.

Five simple crosses still stand on the property along with a memorial built by the homeowners.

The Octagon House that the firefighters of Engine 57 were trying to save is still a shell.  There are rubber marks  from fire hoses still burned into the sidewalk.  Charred logs remain.

Physical scars, that can't compare to the emotional scars of five families who lost loved ones that day.

Maclean tells us, "A lot of these people, grew up together, they joined the fire service together, they inter-married, they knew each other, they played ball together."

Maclean's book also focuses on the villain, Oyler, who now sits on death row.  Maclean is corresponding with Oyler.

"I think he's struggling with his soul. He hasn't gotten to the point with me of being forthright about what he did, why he did it.  That's one reason I stay in touch him, I'd like him to do that,"  Maclean says.

Maclean tells us a movie about the Esperanza Fire would focus on the families and the firefighting community.

"You join them up in Idyllwild and there are people you like, admire, recognize and then the things begin to happen that are dramatic and overpowering," Maclean says.

They are stories of so many people whose lives were changed that day.  Lives that need to be remembered.

"Wildland fires don't die out when the embers go cold.  These things go on for generations," Maclean says.

Legendary Pictures has picked up the rights to the book.

Wednesday night, Maclean will be doing a presentation on the book and a book signing at the Barnes and Noble in Redlands from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m..

comments powered by Disqus

Photo Galleries

  • World's most empathetic countries
    Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

    World's most empathetic countries

    Michigan State University has put together a list of the most empathetic countries. Researchers interviewed more than 100,000 adults from 63 countries and found "higher empathy countries also have higher levels of collectivism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, self-esteem, emotionality, subjective well-being, and prosocial behavior." Find out the top 10 countries that made the list.

    Read More »
  • On this day: October 22
    Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images

    On this day: October 22

    The first parachute jump takes place, "Pretty Boy" Floyd is gunned down, football meets television, and The Supremes top the charts, all on this day.

    Read More »
  • Everything you wanted to know about the Electoral College
    William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

    Everything you wanted to know about the Electoral College

    The person ahead in the popular vote might not actually win the presidency. Why? The Electoral College takes the final vote -- not us.

    Read More »
  • Best Clinton, Trump lines from Alfred E. Smith dinner

    Best Clinton, Trump lines from Alfred E. Smith dinner

      Less than a day after their heated final presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton traded shots at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner. Here's a look at the most memorable lines from the event.

    Read More »
  • Most popular Halloween pet costumes
    John Moore/Getty Images

    Most popular Halloween pet costumes

    Halloween isn't just for humans to dress in costume. About 16 percent of consumers plan to dress their pets up too, according to the National Retail Federation. The group put together a list of the top costumes for pets. Click through to see what made the list, including the devil.

    Read More »