BIG SUR (CBS SF/AP) — Monterey County officials on Thursday identified the bulldozer operator killed in the fire as 35-year-old Robert Reagan of Fresno County.
Reagan died Tuesday night in a tragic rollover accident as he worked to clear some of the dense underbrush in Big Sur’s Palo Colorado community where homes were threatened.
“There was a rollover and the dozer operator was killed. And now there’s an investigation that’s going on,” said CalFire spokesperson Henry Herrera said Wednesday.
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Reagan was the first casualty of the massive wildfire that has scorched more than 42 square miles acres along the central coast. The fire has torched 34 structures and prompted the evacuation of 350 homes.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Reagan’s family. According to the web page, the bulldozer operator was survived by his wife and two young daughters.
The bereavement fund had already raised over $22,000 — $4,000 past its updated goal of $16,000 — in only seven hours.
The bulldozer operator was not a firefighter. Herrera said he was a contractor trained to operate heavy equipment even in the rugged and remote conditions where the wildfire’s currently burning.
“He worked for a private company and he was hired to do the same type of work that our firefighters do, said Herrera. They have the same type of training and credentials.”
CalFire says bulldozers are a versatile and powerful weapon in their arsenal.
They’re used to cut fire breaks in hopes either slowing the fire down or stopping it altogether.
“They’ll come in and remove all the vegetation — all the trees, the brush, everything, said Herrera. They’ll cut it down right to the bare earth.”
CalFire says there’s number of precautions in place designed to prevent an accident exactly like this. Crews measure how steep a hillside is to reduce the chance of a rollover, but why that failed remains a mystery.
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