Firefighter fatality on the Ferguson Fire west of Yosemite National Park in California

We regret to have to report that a firefighter died this morning, July 14, on the Ferguson Fire west of Yosemite National Park. CAL FIRE announced this afternoon that Heavy Fire Equipment Operator Braden Varney was tragically killed while battling the fire. Mr Varney leaves behind a wife and two small children.

One of the firefighters on the fire reported this morning that he thought there was a dozer rollover, and just in case, he wanted to get medical help started to the scene. It turned out that the dozer had rolled several times and ended up in a location that was very difficult to access by foot or see from an aircraft.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Ferguson Fire, including the most recent, click here.)

Just after 1 p.m. local time CAL FIRE made the official announcement about the fatality.

We send out our sincere condolences to Mr. Varney’s family, coworkers, and friends.Varney fatality

Firefighter fatality in Texas

Andy Loller
Andy Loller. Photo credit: Weatherford Fire Department.

Richard “Andy” Loller, Jr., a firefighter assigned to the Scenic Loop Complex of Fires in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, suffered a medical emergency and passed away June 10. He was flown by helicopter to receive medical treatment and was stabilized before being placed on a medical airplane to Odessa to receive further treatment. While in flight he passed away.

“We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Andy’s passing,” said Weatherford City Manager Sharon Hayes. “He will be sorely missed by the community and all who knew and worked with him. Our prayers are with his family at this time.”

Currently, arrangements are underway to care for his family. Firefighter Loller, Jr. was 42 years of age and was assigned to Weatherford, Texas Fire Department Station 36 on A-Shift. He served 13 years in the fire service and is survived by his wife, two children, and a sister.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of firefighter Loller.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Perry.
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Firefighter collapses, dies during first day of training

Anthony Colacino, 33, died
Anthony Colacino, 33, died during physical training April 21, 2018.

An inmate firefighter collapsed and died during physical training near Jamestown, California April 21. For Anthony Colacino it was his first day as a trainee firefighter on the Sierra Conservation Center fire crew. Just before 8 a.m., about 50 minutes into a one-hour training hike, Mr. Colacino collapsed.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the LA Times:

The on-duty fire captain, along with four other inmate firefighters, took Colacino to the center’s firehouse, where they tried to save him by doing CPR in the vehicle and at the facility until an ambulance arrived, said Krissi Khokhobashvili, a corrections spokeswoman. “Those inmate firefighters, they jumped into action,” she said. “They did what they’re supposed to do.”

Colacino — who had served more than a year of a four-year, four-month sentence out of Riverside County for two counts of evading a peace officer while driving recklessly, cruelty to animals and discharging a firearm with gross negligence — was pronounced dead soon after. Officials said foul play is not suspected in his death, but the Tuolumne County coroner will determine the cause of death.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Colacino’s friends, family, and coworkers.

At least two other very serious life-threatening injuries have occured to wildland firefighters in recent years during day one or two of physical training. They occurred in 2016 in South Dakota and the Northwest.

One was a Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo) injury after running for more than nine miles and doing uphill sprints on the first day.

The other was a heat stroke near the end of a seven-mile run on day two of their season. The employee was unconscious for several hours and spent four days in the hospital.

We are aware of five other California inmate line of duty fatalities in the last seven years:

  • January 4, 2012: Crisanto Leo Lionell, 54, was participating in a training exercise at the California National Guard’s Camp San Luis when he lost consciousness and later passed away.
  • August 19, 2012: Jimmy Randolf, 44, died seven hours after he was found unresponsive where he was sleeping at the Buck Fire. The cause of death was listed as anoxic encephalopathy combined with complications of heat stroke.
  • February 25, 2016: Shawna Lynn Jones, 22, died from major head injuries after being struck by a rolling boulder while fighting the Mulholland Fire near Malibu.
  • May 24, 2017: Matthew Beck, 26, was working on a county roads project with a crew in the Hoopa area. He suffered major head, neck and back injuries when a 120-foot tall tree uprooted and fell on him. He died before life-flight crews were able to reach him.
  • July 11, 2017: Frank Anaya, 22, was throwing cut brush during line construction operations on a fire near Lakeside when he lost his balance and fell into a running chainsaw. He suffered a severe cut to his upper right leg behind his chaps and succumbed to his injuries July 11, 2017.

Fatality on wildfire in Oklahoma

The man was helping firefighters by operating a motor grader.

Above: Satellite photo showing smoke from some of the fires in western Oklahoma. The red dots indicate heat. 

A man working on a wildfire in Oklahoma was killed April 12. The Oklahoma Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports the 61-year-old died Thursday in Roger MIlls County as a result of injuries sustained in the fire that began southeast of Leedey. It happened on the Rhea Fire that is threatening Putnam and several other communities. Television station KOCO reported the man was helping firefighters by operating a motor grader.

Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, and coworkers.

By our very unofficial estimates the Reah Fire has burned at least 130,000 acres between Leedy and Putnam. Other towns threatened by this fire are Vici, Taloga, and Camargo where evacuations have been ordered.

satellite wildfires Oklahoma
The red and orange dots represent heat on fires in Oklahoma detected by a satellite. The red dots were seen at about 2 p.m. CDT April 13, 2018.

Woodward County Emergency Management reports the 34 Complex Fire that started Thursday is still burning. Numerous fire departments and task forces are responding. Oklahoma Forestry Services is supporting the fire with both air and ground assets. This fire is now about 59,000 acres.

The Shaw Fire that started Thursday in Roger Mills County south of Durham is being monitored and is now being mopped up. This fire is approximately 7,250 acres.

A video from Oklahoma:

86-year old firefighter killed in water tender rollover

The accident occurred near Overton, Texas.

A firefighter with the New London Fire Department in Texas died after the water tender they were using to respond to a vegetation fire rolled over near Overton, Texas. The U. S. Fire Administration released the following information:

Firefighter M.V. Hudson was injured in a fire tender (tanker) crash on the evening of February 28th. Hudson and two other firefighters were responding to a grass fire when the apparatus left the right side of the roadway and rolled over, badly damaging the cab and injuring all three occupants. The three firefighters had to be extracted from the vehicle and were rushed to the hospital. Two firefighters were subsequently released, but Firefighter Hudson died while in the hospital on March 10, 2018.

Mr. Hudson had 45 years of firefighting service and was 86 years old.

Our sincere condolences go out to his family, friends, and co-workers.

Firefighter in South Africa killed while battling wildfire

The firefighter was killed while working on a wildfire in the Simonsberg Mountain area

Makelepe Cedric Seokoma
Makelepe Cedric Seokoma

A firefighter in South Africa was killed  February 5 while working on a wildfire in South Africa. Makelepe Cedric Seokoma was a Base Manager for Working on Fire.

Mr. Seokoma passed away while working to contain a wildfire in the Simonsberg Mountain area near Klapmuts in the Western Cape.

Originally from the Limpopo Province, Mr. Seokoma leaves behind his wife and children. He started at Working on Fire in 2004 and moved up the ranks to the crew leader position, then Instructor. At the time of his untimely passing, he was the the Base Manager in the Western Cape.

The organization employs 5,000 young men and women trained as veld and wildland firefighters stationed in over 200 bases throughout South Africa.

On January 29 another firefighter in South Africa died while on duty. Candice (Ashley) Kruger was helping to suppress a wildfire on the lower slopes of Table Mountain when she collapsed and later passed away in a hospital. She was in her ninth year with the Fire and Rescue Service in Cape Town and was assigned to the Roeland Street Fire Station.