Services set in Modesto for Cal Fire bulldozer operator killed fighting Ferguson fire

A celebration of life is being held Monday in Modesto for the Cal Fire bulldozer operator who died last week while fighting the Ferguson fire in Mariposa County.

Services for 36-year-old Braden Varney will be held at The House Modesto at 1601 Coffee Road. Varney is from Mariposa but The House was chosen for its capacity to host a large number of family, friends and fellow fire personnel.

At 10:30 a.m. there will be a walking procession from the parking lot into the church that will include bagpipes, drums and an honor guard, which can be attended by the public.

There likely will not be room inside the church for the public to attend services that begin at 11 a.m., Cal Fire information officer Richard Cordova said.

Representatives from well over 20 fire agencies from around the state plan to attend the funeral and more are expected to RSVP before Monday, he said.

A private burial at an undisclosed location will follow.

A vehicle procession will bring Varney’s body from Franklin & Downs funeral chapel to the church, then leave the church after the service. The route has not been released, but traffic in the area will be impacted from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., most notably lane closures on westbound Briggsmore Avenue and southbound Coffee Road, according to Modesto Police.

Varney’s body was found alongside his overturned bulldozer at the bottom of a ravine on July 14. He’d been bulldozing vegetation along Highway 140 the night before to create a firebreak when Cal Fire officials lost communication with him.

A gofundme page has been started to raise money for his wife and two young children. Offiicials are asking fire service who attend the service to bring a T-shirt from their departments to be made into a quilt for his children.

On Saturday, a 4-H member from Waterford will auction off his hog at the Stanislaus County Fair to benefit the Varney family. Brennen Keeney plans to donate all his proceeds from the market hog auction, which will take place at about 8 a.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, Cal Fire said late Friday, there will be a visitation Varney at Franklin & Downs Funeral Home, 1050 McHenry Ave., from 2 to 6 p.m.

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