U.S. NEWS

Sixth First Responder Dies Fighting Northern California Wildfires

A firefighter died Monday while fighting the Mendocino Complex blaze, which has consumed over 305,400 acres.

A sixth first responder has died battling this year’s wildfires in California, fighting what has become the largest wildfire in California’s history.

The firefighter, who was from Utah but has not been named, was fighting the Mendocino Complex blaze along the Mendocino National Forest when he suffered fatal injuries on Monday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

“We’re extremely heartbroken for this loss. We are dedicated to investigating what happened and will release more information as it becomes available,” Mendocino Complex incident commander Sean Kavanaugh said at an evening press conference.

A firefighter monitors a backfire while battling the Mendocino Complex blaze on Aug. 7 near Lodoga, California. So far this y
A firefighter monitors a backfire while battling the Mendocino Complex blaze on Aug. 7 near Lodoga, California. So far this year, six people have died fighting wildfires in the state.

The firefighter’s death is the first attributed to the Mendocino Complex fires, which as of Tuesday morning had spread across more than 305,400 acres and was 68 percent contained, Cal Fire said. In comparison, 2017’s massive Thomas Fire ― which until last week held the record for the largest wildfire in the state’s history ― consumed 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

On Aug. 9, Cal Fire heavy equipment operator Andrew Brake, 40, was killed in a traffic crash while heading to help battle the Carr Fire in Shasta County, San Francisco station KGO reported.

On July 29, Fire Capt. Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks was killed after being hit by a falling tree while battling the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park.

On July 27, Don Ray Smith, 81, a contract bulldozer operator, died after becoming overcome by the Carr Fire while assisting firefighters, the Redding Record Searchlight reported.

On July 26, fire inspector Jeremy Stoke of the Redding Fire Department, died after his vehicle was caught in flames while volunteering to help battle the Carr Fire, ABC 10 reported.

On July 14, Cal Fire bulldozer operator Braden Varney, 36, died in the Ferguson Fire after crashing his vehicle down a mountainside, San Francisco station KQED reported.

Trees burned by the Mendocino Complex Fire near Lodoga, California.
Trees burned by the Mendocino Complex Fire near Lodoga, California.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Sunday surveyed parts of the Carr Fire’s destruction and encouraged thinning California’s national forests as a way to prevent wildfires.

He also pushed back against linking the fires to climate change.

“America is better than letting these radical groups control the dialogue about climate change,” he told local TV news station KCRA. “Extreme environmentalists have shut down public access. They talk about habitat, and yet they are willing to burn it up.”

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