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Another Private Contractor Under Investigation in Soberanes Fire Injury

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Smoke rises from the Soberanes Fire east of Monterey County's Big Sur coast. (Nic Coury/Cal Fire/Twitter)

State regulators have opened an investigation into Industrial Defense Development Inc., a private contractor that employs a worker who was seriously injured when his water tender flipped over while battling a massive wildfire burning in Monterey County.

It's the second time this summer a private contractor has come under scrutiny after a worker was hurt while battling the Soberanes Fire, which has burned more than 117,000 acres since it ignited two months ago.

The first incident killed a bulldozer operator in late July. A preliminary report by Cal Fire found that Robert Reagan, the operator, was ejected from his machine as it tipped over on a steep embankment. Czirban Concrete, the construction company that employed Reagan, had its license suspended eight times by state regulators in the last four years.

The most recent water tender incident took place on the west side of the Soberanes Fire on Sept. 11.

The large vehicle rolled over multiple times down an embankment, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

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The injured 60-year-old man inside was taken to a hospital, where he was expected to make a full recovery.

Forest Service officials have released little about the incident or the worker, despite repeated requests for information.

For several days, officials with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) did not believe the incident was in their jurisdiction.

Since the Sobranes Fire is managed by federal fire officials on federal land, Cal/OSHA did not immediately investigate the incident.

But last Friday afternoon, five days after the accident, that changed.

"Per legal guidance that we have recently received, Cal/OSHA ... opened an investigation into this case," said agency spokeswoman Julia Bernstein.

Industrial Defense Development Inc. is based in both Groveland in Tuolomne County and San Luis Obispo, and is owned by Scott Harvey, who could not be reached for comment.

Czirban Concrete and Industrial Defense Development are just two of a number of companies that Cal Fire and the Forest Service contracted with on the Soberanes Fire, a practice the agencies employ for large wildfires.

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