Firefighters mourn loss of dozer operator as Ferguson Fire continues to grow

Midpines, Calif. (KFSN) -- More resources are headed to the Ferguson Fire, as it has grown significantly in the last four hours.

Not only are the firefighters mourning the loss of one of their own but they are battling a fire that at this point, the fire is outpacing them.

The latest update shows the fire ballooned in size to more than 1,000 acres with containment holding steady at just five percent.

They say that number may be much higher but because of the smoky conditions, they cannot safely fly to get an accurate survey.

"We all know the world of firefighting it is a difficult job it's a dangerous job," said Cal Fire Unit Chief Nancy Corprich.

As she fought back tears the Cal Fire Unit Chief described the hard work and dedication of their fallen brother.

"This is certainly going to be devastating to his family and those of us here that call him family," said Corprich.

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Cal Fire firefighter died while battling the Ferguson Fire on the Sierra National Forest.

Second generation dozer operator Braden Varney had been with Cal Fire for more than 10 years.

The husband, son, and father of two was on the fire line when the Ferguson Fire first broke out Friday night.

Chief Corprich went on to say she was working to build a fire break so that flames would not spread to the nearby Jerseydale and Midpines communities.

She adds he was making his way out of the fire area when the rollover happened, but other than that, they are still investigating the circumstances.

As crews continue to mourn the loss of one of their own. They are braving the front lines of a fire that's outpacing them.

RELATED: Highway 140 road closures due to dozer rollover investigation

"It puts a heaviness and awareness on just how fragile everything is," said Fire Information Officer Anne Grandy.

Heavy smoke hindered aerial support. The fire burning in steep and inaccessible terrain proved most challenging for firefighters.

"We had some thunder cells in the area which create a lot of wind and canyons that accelerates the wind. The fire behavior became very active and changed from its moderate behavior in the early afternoon," said Grandy.

About 50 to 60 people were forced to evacuate from the Ferguson Ridge, BLM Campgrounds, and Savages Trading Post area.

Road closures are still in place. Cedar Lodge and Jerseydale areas are under advisory as recovery teams make progress on retrieving Varney's body. There will be a procession into the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office.

You can make a donation to the Braden Varney GoFundMe account here.
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