Bringing home Braden

Braden Varney family dozer operator fatality California
This image of the Varney family — Braden and Jessica with children Maleah and Nolan — was seen around the world with news stories about Braden’s death. Photo courtesy Cal Fire

The San Francisco Chronicle has a story you have to read, about a CAL FIRE firefighter, his wife, and two small children. Braden Varney died July 14, 2018 while building fireline with his dozer at the Ferguson Fire on the west edge of Yosemite National Park in California. No one else was around  when the 21-ton machine with Braden inside rolled 300 feet down a steep slope. Removing his remains proved to be very challenging, and progress came to a halt at one point when the fire burned through the recovery site.

The article is HERE. Be sure and view the six-minute video.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Bringing home Braden”

  1. Heartbreaking. The San Francisco Chronicle story beautifully portrays the Braden family, thank you for linking this.

    1. The Cat dozer I was operating on the Lake Christine Fire in Colorado on July 7, 2018 hooked a boulder on a down slope on Basalt Mountain. It flipped hard right and rolled 4 times sideways. I was knocked unconscious in the first roll. The dozer landed upright. It was in reverse heading for a ravine. A second dozer operator rammed his blade into my track 3 times forcing my dozer uphill to a stop. A Hotshot from AZ jumped on my machine, opened the door, turned the key off and unbuckled my seatbelt. I began to regain consciousness when out of the dozer. I was airlifted as a medical code red. Cuts, bruises and brain injury have healed. I tell this story to thank all of my angels that day: Mark D (other dozer operator), AZ Hotshots, Flight crew, hospital staff, therapy staff, Roaring Fork Valley Fire/EMS personnel and my family. Braden’s accident happened shortly after mine. Reading his story was very difficult, but it reinforces that the dedication he had and the actions of those who responded reminded me of my angels. Bless all of you that serve. Peace.

  2. Unfortunately Bandon’s story is not the only one over the years several tractor operators have been killed. R-5 Angeles N.F lost one while I was employed there. Fire Cat Operators have a dangerous job, they not only have to deal with fire but poorly constructed roads and fire brakes. They are always dodging rolling rocks and falling trees. My hat is off to both the tractor operator and his swamped.


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