Bulldozer operator dies fighting Siberanes Fire in Northern California

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif., July 27 (UPI) — A bulldozer operator helping fight the Soberanes Fire north of Big Sur has died, Cal Fire reported Wednesday morning.

The man was killed when his vehicle overturned during nighttime operations, Cal Fire said in its daily briefing. The massive fire was 10 percent contained Wednesday.

The bulldozer operator was an independent private contractor trained to work on fire lines alongside firefighters, Cal Fire said in the briefing.

Meanwhile, hikers were led to safety after they were stranded for at least five days near the raging fire.

Cal Fire said hikers were near the fire in Monterey County, lost with little water or food, when the fire intensified over the weekend, leaving them stranded.

“Air attack did locate them initially,” Cal Fire’s Kevin Bohall told NBC Bay Area. “Once we found that, we used a global positioning unit, got a latitude and longitude and sent the dozer operators in to find them.”

Search and rescue crews from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department brought them to a campground.

More than 300 people have been evacuated and several roads closed in the area, Cal Fire reported Wednesday morning.

A total of 3,079 personnel, including Cal Fire and the United States Forest Service, were fighting the fire, which has spread to 23,568 acres, destroying 20 homes and threatening 2,000.

All California state parks from Point Lobos State Natural Reserve through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park are closed indefinitely.

Acting Gov. Tom Torlakson, filling in as Gov. Jerry Brown attends the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, on Tuesday issued emergency proclamations for Los Angeles and Monterey counties due to the effects of the Sand and Soberanes fires, which broke out Friday.

The so-called Sand Fire in Santa Clarita has covered 38,346 acres in Southern California and was 40 percent contained as of Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said. A total of 2,937 fire personnel are fighting the wildfire.

At least 18 homes have been destroyed. Residents of 10,000 homes were evacuated but by Monday night most were allowed to return.

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