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The Esperanza Fire

Arson, Murder, and the Agony of Engine 57

The Esperanza Fire by John N. Maclean
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When a jury returns to a packed courtroom to announce its verdict in a capital murder case every noise, even a scraped chair or an opening door, resonates like a high-tension cable snap. Spectators stop rustling in their seats; prosecution and defense lawyers and the accused stiffen into attitudes of wariness; and the judge looks on owlishly. In that atmosphere of heightened expectation the jury entered a Riverside County Superior Court room in southern California to render a decision in the trial of Raymond Oyler, charged with murder for setting the Esperanza Fire of 2006, which killed a five man Forest Service engine crew sent to fight the blaze.

Today, wildland fire is everybody’s business, from the White House to the fireground. Wildfires have grown bigger, more intense, more destructiveand more expensive. Federal taxpayers, for example, footed most of the $16 million bill for fighting the Esperanza Fire. But the highest cost was the lives of the five-man crew of Engine 57, the first wildland engine crew ever to be wiped out by flames.
Counterpoint; February 2013
320 pages; ISBN 9781619021488
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Title: The Esperanza Fire
Author: John N. Maclean
 
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