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BIG BEAR, Calif. – The extraordinary manhunt for the former Los Angeles police officer suspected of three murders converged Tuesday on a mountain cabin where he was believed to have barricaded himself, engaged in a shootout that killed a fourth victim – a deputy – and then never emerged as the home went up in flames.

A single gunshot was heard from within, and a charred body was found inside.

If the man inside proves to be Christopher J. Dorner, the search for the most-wanted man in America over the last week would have ended the way he had expected – death, with the police pursuing him.

Thousands of officers had been searching for the former Navy reservist since police said he launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing.

The cabin was on fire, and smoke was coming from the structure in the late afternoon after police surrounded it in the snow-covered woods of Big Bear, a resort town about 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

“We have reason to believe that it is him,” San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Cynthia Bachman said.

Bachman didn’t say how the fire started but noted that there was gunfire between the person in the cabin and law enforcement officers around the home before the blaze began.

Television news helicopters showed the fire burning freely with no apparent effort to extinguish it.

Authorities say Dorner, 33, threatened to bring “warfare” to LAPD officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across three states and Mexico.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for you to turn yourself in. It’s time to stop the bloodshed,” LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said earlier in the day at a news conference held outside Police Headquarters in Los Angeles, a starkly different atmosphere than last week when officials briefed the news media under tight security with Dorner on the loose.

If the man inside the cabin does prove to be Dorner, it would lower tensions among the more than 40 targets police say he listed in an online rant.

Until Tuesday, authorities didn’t know whether Dorner was still near Big Bear, where they found his burned-out pickup truck last week.

At about 12:20 p.m. Tuesday, deputies got a report of a stolen vehicle, authorities said. The location was directly across the street from where law enforcement set up their command post on Thursday and not far from where Dorner’s burned-out pickup truck was abandoned.

The people whose vehicle was stolen described the suspect as looking similar to Dorner. When authorities found the vehicle, the suspect ran into the forest and barricaded himself inside the cabin. The first exchange of gunfire occurred at about 12:45.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a statement that one of its officers traveling down Highway 38 recognized a man who fit Dorner’s description traveling in the opposite direction. The wildlife officer pursued the vehicle and there was a shooting in which the wildlife vehicle was hit numerous times and the suspect escaped on foot.

There was then a second exchange with San Bernardino County deputies, two of whom were shot. One died, and the other was expected to live after undergoing surgery.

“We’re heartbroken,” Big Bear Lake Mayor Jay Obernolte said of the deputy’s death and the wounding of his colleague. “Words can’t express how grateful we are for the sacrifice those men have made in defense of the community and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families.”

Police say their hunt for Dorner began Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain’s daughter and her fiancé with an angry Facebook rant they said he posted. Threats against the LAPD led officials to assign officers to protect officers and their families.

Within hours of the release of photos of the 6-foot, 270-pounder described as armed and “extremely dangerous,” police say, Dorner unsuccessfully tried to steal a boat in San Diego to flee to Mexico and then ambushed police in Riverside County, shooting three and killing one.

Jumpy officers guarding one of the targets named in the rant in Torrance on Thursday shot and wounded two women delivering newspapers because they mistook their pickup truck for Dorner’s.

Police found charred weapons and camping gear inside the truck in Big Bear.

Helicopters using heat-seeking technology searched the forest from above while scores of officers, some using bloodhounds, scoured the ground and checked hundreds of vacation cabins in the area.

A snowstorm hindered the search and may have helped cover his tracks, though authorities were hopeful he would leave fresh footprints if hiding in the wilderness.

Dorner’s anger with the department dated from at least five years ago, when he was fired for filing a false report accusing his training officer of kicking a mentally ill suspect.

Dorner, who is black, said in the rant that he was the subject of racism by the department and fired for doing the right thing. He said he would get even with those who wronged him as part of his plan to reclaim his good name.

“You’re going to see what a whistleblower can do when you take everything from him especially his NAME!!!” the rant said. “You have awoken a sleeping giant.”

Police Chief Charlie Beck said he would reopen the investigation into Dorner’s firing to restore confidence in the black community, which long had a fractured relationship with police that has improved in recent years.