YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (KABC) --Amid an intense search for two Fullerton firefighters who were missing in Yosemite National Park, one of the men arrived at a ranger station Tuesday morning and the other was subsequently found alive by a ground crew, authorities said.
Tears of joy filled the Fullerton Fire Department after firefighter paramedic Dave Brown and captain paramedic Javier Avelar were discovered to be safe.
"We all had a big sigh of relief, a little tears, a few tears because we are a fire family," Fullerton Division Chief Kathy Schaefer said.
The two men were on a six-day backpacking trip through part of the 1,169-square-mile park, starting at the White Wolf campground before making their way "through Pleasant Valley, over Rancheria Mountain (and) staying on the north side of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir," according to a bulletin released by Yosemite officials.
"It isn't surprising that they were able to walk out and survive this ordeal. We're just thankful they did," Schaefer said.
Officials said the men were experienced hikers who made the trek every year. The search effort began when Brown and Avelar did not return to Orange County on Sunday as they were scheduled to.
"When he didn't show up, we're all wondering what was going on," Schaefer explained. "Got a hold of Javier's wife, and yes, he didn't come home. So that's when we ramped it up a little bit."
A search group from Fullerton went up to Yosemite National Park with the help of the National Park Service.
Rescuers said Brown walked into a ranger station Tuesday morning and Avelar was found shortly afterward by ground crew who were able to pinpoint his location.
"He (Brown) gave an update of where he thought Javier might be, and so the search party went there and they were able to find him," Schaefer said.
The families of Avelar, a veteran with the department for more than 20 years, and Brown, who has worked at the department for five years, were eager to have them back at the fire station.
"They'll have no idea what we all went through, praying and hoping for their safety," Schaefer said. "Going to be thrilled to see them and give them a big hug."