A private bulldozer operator died early Tuesday in a car crash while assigned to help fight the North fire burning in the Tahoe National Forest, marking the latest fire-related fatality in what’s been a grim fire season in California.
Antonio “Tony” Flores, 37, was driving to the command post at the Blue Canyon Airport when he was involved in a car crash on Interstate 80 east of Blue Canyon, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Flores was an employee with Kent Siller Trucking, where he had worked for more than 20 years as a master mechanic and heavy-equipment operator, and was assigned to the fire as a private contractor. During his three years as a bulldozer operator, he had helped fight multiple fires for the forest service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“He had an outstanding work ethic,” Neil Siller, a spokesman for the trucking company, said in a statement. “He was our go-to guy on all types of projects.”
Flores, a lifelong resident of the Yuba City area, is survived by his wife of 18 years and four children who range in age from 9 to 16.
The North fire, which started more than a week ago, had scorched 1,120 acres and was 85% contained as of late Tuesday. Flores’ death marks at least the 13th fire-related fatality since July in California.
“This has been an extremely tough fire season for our firefighters both physically and emotionally,” Curtis Coots, incident commander for the North fire, said in a statement.
Authorities are investigating the cause of the crash.