By Lizzy Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle:
For more than four hours, no one heard from Braden Varney. The 10-year veteran of California’s firefighting force had been dispatched to bulldoze a firebreak on a precarious ridge near Marble Point in Mariposa County, an effort to contain the stubborn Ferguson Fire near Yosemite.
It was before dawn on July 14, and the blaze that ignited a day earlier in Sierra National Forest was pushing toward the tiny town of Jerseydale. At first, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incident commanders didn’t overthink the lapse in communication. The backcountry was remote and unreachable — maybe Varney didn’t have radio service.
But at 8:47 a.m. a pilot sent to fly over Varney’s last known location spotted his 42,000-pound bulldozer at the bottom of a 220-foot drop. Varney, 36, had become the first fatality in a perilous start to a wildfire season that would kill three more firefighters on active duty as well as four residents by the end of July.
Little was known about Varney’s accident until this week, when Cal Fire completed its Green Sheet, the agency’s report on serious injuries and accidents. While the report does not assign blame, it lists more than a half-dozen safety concerns related to Varney’s death and a list of lessons learned, suggesting that the accident could have been prevented.
Read the full story here.