Published: Tue, July 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Firefighter killed in wildfire near Yosemite National Park

Firefighter killed in wildfire near Yosemite National Park

A California wildfire burning out of control at the edge of Yosemite National Park that has killed one firefighter and closed a major route into the park mushroomed overnight as crews fought on Monday to protect a string of small communities.

On Saturday, a heavy equipment operator died on the fire line trying to dig a trench to keep the flames from extending into a nearby community.

Varney's death "has left all of us deeply saddened, our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones and CALFIRE fellow firefighters", the U.S. Forest Service in California said in a statement.

Varney, 36, of Mariposa had served in the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit for a decade.

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McLean said Varney's death is still under investigation. They believe he was working his way out of the fire area when he was killed.

The blaze broke out around 10:30 p.m. on Friday in Mariposa County, near the west end of Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest. He had been with Cal Fire for more than 10 years.

Heavy Equipment Operator Varney is survived by his wife, Jessica, five-year-old daughter, Malhea and three-year-old son, Nolan. "The fire behavior became very active and changed from its moderate behavior in the early afternoon". It was 5 percent contained by midday Saturday. It is not immediately clear how many firefighters are now assigned to the Ferguson Fire, according to the public information officers at base camp, but the figures should be available later this morning.

In Varney's honor, the governor also ordered Capitol flags to be flown at half-staff.

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