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Incident Name: Colorado Fire, Palo Colorado Canyon (North of Big Sur) near Monterey
Date: Accident date: 10/08/07; Death date: 10/9/2007 (CA Death Records)
Personnel: : Matthew Richard Will
Age: 30
Agency/Organization: CAL FIRE
Position: Heavy Equipment Operator

Summary: Heavy Equipment Operator Will was driving a heavy bulldozer as he and other firefighters fought the Colorado Fire near Monterey on the morning of 10/8/2007. During operations, the bulldozer rolled over and crushed Heavy Equipment Operator Will. He was airlifted to a regional hospital but did not survive his injuries -- he died the next day.

Matt Will Matt Will
Matt Will and his children Matt Will and his children

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Maps

Top of the ridge Palo Colorado Canyon ( North of Big Sur) where the bulldozer began to roll, Colorado Fire in CA

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • CAL FIRE: Press Release 10/9/07 (34 K pdf)
  • CAL FIRE: Wildland Fire Bulldozer Rollover Fatality Blue Sheet (24 hour briefing) (54 K pdf, text below)
    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    BLUE SHEET - Bulldozer Rollover Fatality

    BLUE SHEET PRELIMINARY SUMMARY REPORT

    San Benito Monterey Unit

    Bulldozer Rollover Fatality

    October 8, 2007

    Colorado Incident CA-BEU-004103

    Accident Incident CA-BEU-004112

    Accident Review Incident CA-CSR-000098

    This Preliminary Summary Report is intended as an aid in accident prevention, and to provide factual information from the first 24 hours of the accident review. To that end it is published and distributed within a short time frame. Information contained within may be subject to revision as further investigation is conducted, and other reports and documents are received.

    Synopsis: Two CAL FIRE BEU bulldozers were constructing line on steep slope. One of the bulldozers rolled down the slope and the operator was fatally injured.

    Narrative: A structure fire was reported at 12:42 P.M. on Monday, October 8, 2007, along Palo Colorado Canyon Road off of Highway 1 about 11 miles south of Carmel, CA. The San Benito/Monterey Unit ECC dispatched a full wildland response to the incident because of the ruggedness of the area and proximity of the structure to the brush covered terrain. The fire did transition to the wildland and grew to over 40 acres. A CAL FIRE BEU bulldozer (Dozer #1) was working with a second CAL FIRE BEU bulldozer (Dozer #2) at constructing line downhill along a flank of a fire. Dozer #2 became immovable and Dozer #1 was working below it to assist Dozer #2 in continuing with their assignment. At about 4:30 P.M., Dozer #1 plunged over 150 feet down the slope, rolling several times, coming to rest at the bottom of a canyon. The Heavy Fire Equipment Operator was extricated from the bulldozer and airlifted to a trauma center where he succumbed to his injuries at 8:55 A.M. on Tuesday, October 9, 2007.

    Recommendations For Immediate Corrective Actions: Firefighters should review the special hazards of working in steep terrain. Firefighters need to have an understanding of operations on different soil types.

  • CAL FIRE Wildland Fire Bulldozer Rollover Fatality Green Sheet (72 hour report) (1.2 MB)
  • CAL FIRE Serious Accident Investigation: Final Report (1.25 MB)
  • USFA Memorial Database: Matthew Will

Photos from the line

An hour before rollover An hour before rollover
At helispot after accident At helispot after accident

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

  • Theysaid: October 2007 Scroll down to 10/9 for the beginning of the discussion

The following links no longer work unless you are registered on the wildlandfire.com site:

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • 'He Was Just a Great Guy to Be Around'

    From the Hollster Free Lance: Link to Online Article (Article no longer online)
    Oct 10, 2007
    By Michael Van Cassell

    Hollister - A faded yellow chair with worn wooden armrests - which has been reupholstered with care - sits outside of the maintenance shop at CalFire's Hollister Air Attack Base. It was Matthew Richard Will's, and he loved it.

    CalFire Battalion Chief Mark Edria said as he pulled into work, Will would often be standing near or sitting in the chair. It's one reminder of Will that Edria and the rest of the firefighters at the air base will be sure to struggle with in the wake the 30-year-old firefighter's death.

    "He was just a great guy to be around," Edria said at a press conference Wednesday. "To know he's not going to be with us is devastating." Will died Tuesday morning from injuries he suffered after the bulldozer he was driving rolled over as he fought the Colorado Fire in southern Monterey County the day before.

    He leaves behind his wife, Diana Will, their 10-year-old son Trysten and 8-year-old daughter Elsie - and a void not only with his family, but also with the members of the air base. While Will's death remains under investigation, CalFire personnel remembered Wednesday the man they say was jovial and had a big heart and strong hands. He was willing to do anything for anyone, they said.

    CalFire Capt. Steve Norris, who directs air operations and flies for the state's fire department, met Will when the two began working together at the Hollister Air Attack Base in May 2003. Will had moved with his family from San Diego to take the job in Hollister and keep alive the firefighting tradition in his family.

    Norris said Will had a strong work ethic. Will took on extra duties and was always trying to improve the work environment for everyone, Norris said.

    In addition to driving the bulldozer on the front lines for CalFire, Will also worked in the air base's shop, keeping equipment maintained from local stations.

    Will had also passed through the officer academy, making him eligible to become a captain, Edria said. "He just passed," Edria said. "He was very excited."

    Norris was there Monday just before Will was injured. Will told Norris that the dirt was soft on the steep hill he was clearing to contain the right side of the 50-acre Colorado Fire. "He was a little concerned when he was working the top part of the fire," Norris said.

    At one point, when Will was driving down the steep hill, Norris offered to have an airplane dump water on high flames near his bulldozer. Will told Norris he would wait. It was the last time Will spoke with Norris, he said. "He took care of it before it could drop," Norris said of the flames. The captain left to refuel before Will's bulldozer rolled over.

    Family members were unavailable for comment Wednesday. Edria said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the Will residence Wednesday to offer condolences. A memorial service for Will is being planned.

  • Firefighter Killed by Caterpillar Rollover – Dangerous Design of Operator Compartment | Settlement: The Veen Firm, PC

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Memorial Page: Matt Will
  • Obituary: Matt married Diana in 1997. They had two kids, Trysten and Elsie. The Will's moved to Hollister in 2003 and became part of the CalFire family. His humor was contagious-no one was spared. At 6' tall, 240 pounds, Matt often mentioned his 'girlish figure'. On October 8, 2007 Matt was called to a fire in Monterey, CA. When Matt's dozer rolled, he sustained head injuries and died the next day. Matt's family is proud that many of his organs were donated. On the job, he saved property and lives; later, he gave new life to 5 others. Matt is missed every minute of every day by his wife, children, family, friends, co-workers, and a world that needs laughter and heroics.
  • Press Release from CAL FIRE:

    LODD - BEU San Benito/Monterey unit - Matthew Richard Will, a heavy fire equipment operator with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), died this morning as the result of a bulldozer rollover Dozer D-4645 on the Colorado Fire located in Monterey County yesterday afternoon. Will, 30, was battling the Colorado Fire in Monterey County on Monday, Oct. 8, 2007, when his bulldozer overturned. He was airlifted to San Jose Regional Medical Center for treatment and died this morning from injuries sustained in the rollover.

    - Authorization is granted for shrouding of all badges for uniform personnel and the continuance of flags at half staff at all department facilities in remembrance of Matthew Will CAL FIRE Heavy Fire Equipment Operator (HFEO) -

    Message from Cal fire Office of the Director
    A Message From the Director

    It is with heartfelt sympathy that I send this message -

    CAL FIRE Line of Duty Death -

    Matthew Richard Will, a heavy fire equipment operator with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), died this morning as the result of a bulldozer rollover in Monterey County yesterday afternoon.Will, 30, was battling the Colorado Fire in Monterey County on Monday, Oct. 8, 2007, when his bulldozer overturned. He was airlifted to San Jose Regional Medical Center for treatment and died this morning from injuries sustained in the rollover.

    Will, a resident of Hollister, was assigned to Hollister Air Attack Base in the San Benito Monterey Unit. He started with CAL FIRE, then known as CDF, on May 19, 2003, as a heavy fire equipment operator. He recently graduated from the department’s fire academy in Ione.

    Immediate survivors include his wife, Diana Will, his son Trysten, 10, and daughter Elsie, 8.

    Authorization is granted for shrouding of all badges for uniform personnel and the continuance of flags at half staff at all department facilities in remembrance of Matthew Will.

    Additional information will be forthcoming from CAL FIRE as it develops.

    Ruben Grijalva, Chief

    CAL FIRE

    Department of Forestry & Fire Protection

    Office of the Director

Hotshot photo compliments of KION
Monterey IHC at Matt Will memorial Monterey IHC at Matt Will memorial
Wildland Firefighter Statue Wildland Firefighter Statue
Matt Will memorial Matt Will memorial
Matt Will memorial Matt Will memorial
  • 7/6/2010 from FPO: Here is a link to a memorial plaque for CAL FIRE Dozer Operator Matt Will who died in the line of duty in Palo Colorado, Monterey County. Could you please add to the Memorial page Matt Will (I also added it above.)

    Also, the legislature and Gov. recently passed resolution ACR-106, in Matt Will's honor, five miles of Hwy 156, between Hollister / San Juan Bautista to Hwy 101, will be designated as CAL FIRE FIREFIGHTER MATTHEW WILL MEMORIAL HIGHWAY. The signs will be placed by Cal-Trans, but no state funds can be used. Once the signs are up, still months away, we will forward a photo of them to you for the memorial page.

  • The Matt Will Memorial was placed at the accident site on Palo Colorado Road on November 22, 2009 and a stretch of Hwy 156 in San Benito County -- near the communities of San Juan Bautista and Hollister -- was dedicated in his honor.
    • The sign was destroyed in a vehicle accident in late 2012 or early 2013, but was replaced the end of April, 2013.
Matt Will plaque Matt Will plaque
Matt Will memorial highway Matt Will memorial highway

  • Annual Memorial Desert Runs to fund the local Matt Will Scholarship, SIX so far -- 2008-2014
  • California Memorial Firefighter Wall in Sacramento: California Memorial LODDs by Wall Order. (84 K pdf) --see page 24

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Contributors to this article: SoCal CalFire; FPO, 7/6/2010; 2881; George Haines, Unit Chief (retired), CAL FIRE - BEU; Mellie; RJM

 

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