The contract firefighter who died after his water tanker truck went off the road in Napa early Monday morning has been identified as 38-year-old Garrett Paiz of Missouri. Paiz had come to fight the fires in California last week as a private contractor, and his was the first death of a fire crew member to occur since the swarm of fires began on October 8.
As ABC 7 reports, Paiz was a volunteer firefighter for the Noel Fire Department in the small town of Noel, Missouri, in McDonald County. He was driving the water rig for a company called Tehama Transport, which is based in Red Bluff, California, and prior to being dispatched to California he had been working as a firefighter in Washington State.
"We're very sorry for the loss of the gentleman who was fighting the fire and doing the right thing," Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said to reporters Monday, as BuzzFeed reports. "We still don’t know what happened and will investigate it."
A GoFundMe campaign started by Tehama Transport has so far raised $800 of a $20,000 goal, with all aid going to Paiz's family. "This is a tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers are with Garrett's family at this time. We will continue working with the local authorities to bring peace and closure to his family," they write.
The accident happened around 6:50 a.m. Monday when Paiz's truck went off an embankment while headed downhill, eastward, on the steep and very windy over-mountain road called Oakville Grade. He was bringing water at the time to one of the front lines of the Nuns Fire, which was edging closer to the famed Robert Mondavi vineyard in Napa.
As of Wednesday, the combined death toll from the fires stands at 42.
Update: The Chronicle has more details about Paiz, who was born in Indio, in the Coachella Valley, and who had spent multiple fire seasons as a contract firefighter in California. According to his sister, he died doing what he loved. He is survived by a wife, Bobbie Paiz of Noel, Missouri, and a daughter, Terri Ann Paiz of Tehachapi, California.