2 Fullerton firefighters reported missing in Yosemite found

- Two Fullerton firefighters who went missing during a six-day backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park were found Tuesday and within hours were headed home after what their boss described as a "life-changing'' experience for them.

Fellow Fullerton-Brea firefighters were escorting Dave Brown and Javier Avelar back to the Southland this evening, with the nine traveling in three vehicles, Fullerton fire Chief Wolfgang Knabe told City News Service.

"They're pretty exhausted physically and emotionally. We'll do a checkup on them when we get them back to SoCal,'' he said.

"It was a real harrowing experience for them,'' Knabe said. "We didn't want to talk them too much yet. But for everything they've been through, they're in good spirits and glad to be with family and going home. It was an experience for them, a pretty life-changing experience.''

Brown and Avelar had been expected to return from their trip Sunday. Brown walked into a ranger station this morning, Knabe said, and Avelar was found later by a ground-crew search team.

"This is a huge weight off of our shoulders now,'' the chief said of the happy outcome. "It's unbelievable. It puts everything in perspective.''

The two are extremely physically fit and have backpacked in the area several times before, Knabe said.

"They're experienced backpackers, they're in good shape, they've been here before and they know the area,'' he said. ``And they did everything right as far as making a plan, getting the right permits and letting the park service know.''

According to a missing persons flier distributed in Yosemite, the firefighters planned to start their backpacking trip in White Wolf and then go through Pleasant Valley over Rancheria Mountain to stay on the north side of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and then hike to the Smith Meadow trail.

They were supposed to emerge from White Wolf on Sunday but apparently took a wrong turn and got lost.

According to a missing persons flier distributed in Yosemite, the firefighters planned to start their backpacking trip in White Wolf and then go through Pleasant Valley over Rancheria Mountain to stay on the north side of
the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and then hike to the Smith Meadow trail. They were supposed to emerge from White Wolf on Sunday.

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