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Body of missing firefighter found in California wilderness after exhaustive search

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FILLMORE, California — 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.

Herdman and a friend were backpacking 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.

Herdman's friend made his way back to a trailhead June 15 to alert authorities, setting off a 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.

Herdman had experience backpacking in the backcountry, officials said. 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.

"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.

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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