Braden Varney, Firefighter/Equipment Operator

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Firefighter/Equipment Operator Varney was operating a 2012 John Deere 750J bulldozer at the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County, California.  He arrived at the scene of the incident at approximately 2216hrs on July 13, 2018.  Over the next several hours, Firefighter/Equipment Operator Varney used his bulldozer to improve a road.  He had been experiencing radio communication difficulties and relayed to the IC through his swamper (a certified heavy-equipment supervisor acting as a helper and lookout).

At approximately 0300hrs of July 14, 2018, Firefighter/Equipment Operator Varney directed his swamper to return to their transport vehicle for a hydraulic hose to replace one that had been leaking.  After retrieving the part, the swamper left the site to pick up a relief bulldozer operator for the upcoming change of shift.

Several unsuccessful attempts to contact Firefighter/Equipment Operator Varney were made through the night.  At 0836hrs, the replacement operator asked the IC to assign an aircraft to look for their dozer, they could not locate it.  At 0847hrs, the dozer was spotted by an aircraft.  The dozer operator and the swamper were directed to the site and discovered that the dozer had rolled to a position 220 feet below the road.  They accessed the site by foot and found that Firefighter/Equipment Operator Varney had suffered fatal injuries.

Additional information about this incident is available at https://www.wildfirelessons.net/home.  Use the search function to find “Ferguson Fire Dozer Rollover Fatality”.

Incident Location: Mariposa County, near the west end of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest. (U.S. National Grid: U.S. National Grid: 11S KB 601 682 (DD: 37.630, -119.718))

Department information

CAL FIRE
1416 9th Street
Sacramento, California 94424-2460

Chief: Director Thom Porter

Braden Varney was honored on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland and was included in the USFA’s annual report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States.
Age: 36
Rank: Firefighter/Equipment Operator
Classification: Wildland Full-Time
Incident date: July 14, 2018
Date of death: July 14, 2018
Cause of death: Vehicle Collision - Includes Aircraft
Nature of death: Trauma
Activity type: Driving/Operating Vehicle/Apparatus
Emergency duty: Yes
Duty type: On-Scene Fire
Fixed property use: Outdoor Property