By Amy Lieu, ,
Published July 15, 2018
A California firefighter who was using a bulldozer to prevent a wildfire from spreading was killed Saturday near Yosemite National Park, state fire officials said.
Braden Varney, 36, a CalFire heavy fire equipment operator, died in the morning hours, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
"This certainly is going to be devastating to his family and those of us who call him family here with CalFire," fire Chief Nancy Koerperich said. "But we all know in the world of firefighting it is a difficult job, it is a dangerous job, and Braden will be greatly missed."
Varney had worked through the night and was driving the bulldozer to cut a firebreak to keep the fire from extending into a nearby community, Koerperich said.
"This certainly is going to be devastating to his family and those of us who call him family here with CalFire. But we all know in the world of firefighting it is a difficult job, it is a dangerous job, and Braden will be greatly missed."
The bulldozer rolled over during the incident and first responders weren't immediately able to retrieve Varney's body, she said.
The blaze broke out Friday night in Mariposa County, near the west end of Yosemite National Park and Sierra National Forest.
Fire officials said it had burned about 150 acres.
Investigators were working to determine further circumstances surrounding Varney's death, but they believe he was working his way out of the fire area when he was killed, Koerperich said.
"Braden is known by everyone in Mariposa County and is a star in our community and is a friend of everyone," Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies said.
"Braden is known by everyone in Mariposa County and is a star in our community and is a friend of everyone."
Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags at the state's Capitol to be flown at half-staff to honor "a man who dedicated his life to protecting his fellow Californians."
Varney had worked for CalFire for 10 years. His father also worked as a CalFire heavy equipment operator.
“He was a community member. That’s where he lived, protecting the area where he grew up,” CalFire spokesman Scott McLean said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Varney is survived by his wife, Jessica, daughter Malhea, 5, and son Nolan, 3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.