Hundreds line highways to honor Cal Fire employee killed fighting fire near Yosemite

MARIPOSA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Crowds gathered along Highway 49 on Monday to honor the passing of CAL FIRE bulldozer operator Braden Varney.

He was killed over the weekend fighting the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County.

A procession of fire and emergency vehicles escorted the hearse carrying Varney's body through Mariposa.

Varney is believed to have died late Saturday night.

CAL FIRE spokesman Jeremy Rahn describes what happened, "Braden was up working on a ridge to create that firebreak, to protect the community of Jerseydale."

Rahn says the dozer overturned and rolled down the ridge. The wreckage was spotted by an airplane on Sunday. Crews reached the site and removed his body on Monday.

His death is a loss to his fellow firefighters and this close-knit mountain community.

Anthony Skogen didn't know Varney but felt the loss, "I think it affects everybody because he is a part of the community."

Rahn said, "Braden is a local resident, loved by the community, he is one of the top-notch bulldozer operators that the state has, and he is going to be tragically missed."

Varney worked as a heavy equipment operator for CAL FIRE for ten years. He was 36 years old, married and the father of a son and daughter.

The procession carried his remains through Mariposa to the Stanislaus County Morgue in Modesto.

The accident is being investigated by Cal/OSHA.
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