John Mclean’s nonfiction novel, “The Esperanza Fire” has been acquired by Legendary Pictures to be adapted into a feature film. The novel is the true story of Raymond Oyler, the man charged with a devastating act of arson that caused a wildfire near Cabazon, California, west of Palm Springs, California.
The wildfire burned over 61 square miles (160 km²). Five firefighters were killed defending a vacant house locally known as the “Octagon” that was ultimately destroyed by the fire: Jason McKay, Jess McLean, Daniel Najera, Mark Loutzenhiser, and Pablo Cerda. In June 2009, Raymond Lee Oyler was sentenced to death for starting the fire.
The official plot description is as follows:
With a keen eye and ear for detail and raw emotion, Maclean dissects the tragic circumstances surrounding the deaths of five firefighters in 2006 after a wind-driven fire burned over their position on a ridge amidst a sea of chaparral and a few trees. Whether or not you’ve ever been on the front line of a wildfire, this book is a gut-wrenching, compelling narrative. It reads like a taut murder mystery, a whodunit novel you can’t put down, with a cast of fascinating characters that includes shady suspects, a dogged detective, DNA evidence, a divided jury, and the victims’ grieving family, friends, and colleagues.
The fire, started by an arsonist on October 26, 2006, burned about 42,000 acres and destroyed 34 houses. The arsonist was caught, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Maclean, a seasoned journalist with storytelling in his blood, spent six years piecing together the story of the crime. As for the deaths, he also answers the question, “Why?” as well it can be answered — Why did the crew of Engine 57 hold its position on that hilltop, with a fire driven by Santa Ana winds below them? And was anyone, other than Raymond Lee Oyler, the arsonist, ultimately responsible for the deaths?
Alex Hedlund is attached to oversee development on the film version. There is no word on who will be directing or starring in the project.