'Bulldozer operator doing my job': How a Santa Rosa rancher saved 40 homes, alerted 400 people to evacuate as Glass Fire erupted

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Glass Fire: Rancher saved 40 homes, alerted 400 people to evacuate
A Santa Rosa rancher is being hailed a hero after he saved at least 40 homes from burning in the Glass Fire - using his more than 50-year-old bulldozer.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- A Santa Rosa rancher is being hailed a hero after he saved at least 40 homes from burning in the Glass Fire.

This is a story of perseverance, where the hero is humble and his secret weapon is more than 50-years-old.

RELATED: Firefighters persevere against Glass Fire along Hwy 29, saving homes in Angwin

"This is my bulldozer, it's a John Deer 550. It's old it's from the 1970's," said Santa Rosa Rancher, Vincent Martin.

Seven days ago, Vinny became one with his bulldozer, "I knew that it was going to go all the way out to Gates Road. There are about 40 houses there and no one is here for the first 48 hours. They are spread so thin right now."

His strategy was to create a 12 foot-wide fire break around his ranch. But as flames rapidly expanded along the ridge, his goal also grew and he kept going, creating a defense line that stretched two miles long.

"One neighbor out here and we were able to go over there back and forth and keep the flames from getting their house," said Martin.

VIDEO: Santa Rosa firefighter loses new home in Glass Fire

While fighting the Glass Fire, a Santa Rosa firefighter lost his own home, which he had purchased just days before and had not yet insured.

It's a skill he learned when he was a teenager.

"I use to fight fires back when I was 17-years-old believe or not. He's like my dad, the guy next door here Tom Gram, and he put me on a tractor when I was 14 and by the time I was 17 I was working for CAL-Fires," said Martin.

Today, for the first time in a week, Vinny Martin drove up to see the homes he couldn't save.

"It was totally engulfed. The flames were just... I couldn't get any closer. It was too late for this house"

His selfless attitude is what he's known for. If you ask his wife, that's precisely the attribute that scared her the most as flames raged down the mountain across from their home.

RELATED: Santa Rosa residents settle back in, notice area is getting better at wildfire response

"The reason I stayed is because I knew that he would be more cautious if he had to worry about me too, rather than just himself," said Diana Martin.

Around the St. Helena Mountains, many don't know his face, but that evening of September 28 his neighbors not only saw his work, but also heard his voice.

Martin along with a group of friends sent a blast message to more than 400 residents, urging them to evacuate while he stayed back with his bulldozer, his son Justin and two other friends Charlie Newbold and Tom Graham.

When we asked him if he considered himself a hero, he answered, "No I'm just a guy - A bulldozer operator doing my job. You know when times get tough the tough get going, and that's what we did."

Get the latest updates and videos on the Glass Incident here.