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Off-duty firefighter missing after hike in California forest

By Madeleine Thomas

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Search and rescue crews hunted on Wednesday for an off-duty firefighter who went missing late last week when he ran off after his dog during a camping trip in California's Los Padres National Forest, officials said.

Mike Herdman, 36, was hiking on Friday with another off-duty colleague from the Arcadia Fire Department near Tar Creek Trail, about ten miles north of Fillmore town, said fire department spokeswoman Beth Stogner.

Herdman was barefoot and in shorts and a T-shirt when he chased his Labrador after it ran into the woods, she said.

When he failed to return by nightfall it took the other firefighter - Taylor Byars, who was new to the area - two days to hike out and alert authorities, Stogner said.

Stogner said as many as 50 rescue crews have been working since Sunday night to locate the missing man, patrolling the area on foot, on horseback and by helicopter. The spokeswoman said signs of Herdman have been found.

"There appear to be barefoot prints as well as paw prints and they found them further south than they had expected to find them," Stogner said. The Tar Creek Trail area is a rocky, rugged region swathed in dense vegetation.

Weather conditions have been favorable, she said, with temperatures reaching the 70s during the day and dropping into the 40s and low 50s at night.

"There are a number of water sources, which is a very positive thing," Stogner added. "The conditions are very survivable in terms of weather."

(Reporting by Madeleine Thomas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jim Loney)

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