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Loved Ones to Gather at Celebration of Life for Firefighter Killed in ‘Tragic Accident’

MODESTO -- Just a week after his body was recovered in a remote ravine in Mariposa County, a Cal Fire heavy fire equipment operator is set to be laid to rest Monday.

As fire crews continue to try to stop the Ferguson Fire, those who knew 36-year-old Braden Varney best are set to celebrate a life gone far too soon.

"I think anybody that knew Braden and loved Braden, it is a piece of you that is not there," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Jeremy Rahn. "But he will be missed and never forgotten."

Friends and family gathered at Franklin and Downs Funeral Home Sunday afternoon for a visitation.

Varney, who leaves behind a wife and two children, followed in his father's footsteps as a Cal Fire heavy fire equipment operator. Rahn says he was a master at clearing lines when battling fires.

Cal Fire says Varney died on July 14 after his bulldozer overturned into a ravine while fighting the Ferguson Fire.

"Braden was out making clearing line as an indirect tactic to protect the community of Jerseydale when this tragic accident occurred," Rahn said.

Fire crews from across the state spent the afternoon preparing for a celebration of life at House Modesto on Monday, which will feature crews from around the country.

Those who worked with him in Mariposa County said they are thankful for the support they’ve received in this challenging time. They added that they want the focus Monday to be on the family and helping them through the tragedy.

"With Braden, when you saw him he just was the type of person that if you needed something he would help make sure it got done," Rahn said. "That worked in the community, as well as the department. He was well respected and loved in both the department as well as the community and he is going to be deeply missed."

Cal Fire will also be livestreaming the celebration of life starting at 11 a.m.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Varney's family.