Northern California firefighters mourn loss as Ferguson Fire grows

KFSN logo
Monday, July 16, 2018
Firefighters mourn loss of dozer operator as Ferguson Fire continues to grow
Cal Fire firefighter died while battling the Ferguson Fire on the Sierra National Forest.

MIDPINES, Calif. -- More resources are headed to the Ferguson Fire in Northern California as it continues to grow.

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

The fire ballooned in size to more than 1,000 acres with containment holding steady at just five percent as of Monday morning.

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

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

As Corprich fought back tears, she described the hard work and dedication of their fallen brother.

Second generation dozer operator Braden Varney died in the fire. He had been with Cal Fire for more than 10 years.

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

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.

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

Heavy smoke has hindered aerial support. The fire burning in steep and inaccessible terrain has 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," Grady said. "The fire behavior became very active and changed from its moderate behavior in the early afternoon."

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.