Bulldozer operator killed near Soberanes Fire in Monterey County

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ByChris Nguyen KGO logo
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Bulldozer operator killed near Soberanes Fire
Crews are mourning the death of a bulldozer operator after he was killed on the fire line of the Soberanes Fire burning north of Big Sur.

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- CAL FIRE reports a bulldozer operator was killed overnight, while on the fire line in Monterey County.

Mandatory evacuation orders remain in place in the areas closest to the Soberanes Fire burning north of Big Sur.

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Firefighters continue their efforts to contain the fire, all while mourning the loss of their colleague.

The Soberanes Fire has now burned over 23,688 acres and is 10-percent contained as of Wednesday afternoon.

It was a somber day at base camp for fire crews as they reflected on the loss of one of their own. "It's a brotherhood, so it's devastating," Battalion Chief Henry Herrera said.

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Officials have not identified the bulldozer operator. "It's extremely unfortunate, it does cast a shadow over our efforts, but we have to continue to move forward," CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Robert Fish said.

This isn't the first time a firefighter has died in the area. In 2007, Matthew Will, 30, was driving a heavy bulldozer when it rolled over and crushed him.

This is a reminder of just how dangerous these fire-fighting conditions can be. "The terrain here is very steep and rocky. Working at night is even harder. It's more of a challenge because of the visibility challenges what we face," Herrera said.

Nearly 2,000 structures are threatened and many of them are homes.

Crews are facing downed power lines and fallen trees, among other obstacles.

A firefighter was using a motorcycle to access homes that were hard to reach. "I've been going up some ridges, checking on a couple of local residents, making sure they're okay, getting turned around, went and checked on where the fire was in respect to the main fire," CAL FIRE firefighter Richard Gorton said.

At least 20 homes have been destroyed. Multiple subdivisions remain under an evacuation order.

A meeting will be held Wednesday night at the Big Sur lodge to brief the community about the fire.

Click here for full coverage on the Soberanes Fire.