Employer of Contractor Killed in Soberanes Fire Pleads Not Guilty

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Robert Reagan, 35, of Fresno County, died July 26, 2016, when his bulldozer overturned while trying to access a proposed fire line near Big Sur in the course of fighting the Soberanes Fire. (Cal Fire)

The owner of a company that hired Robert Reagan, the bulldozer operator killed in the most expensive wildfire in U.S. history, pleaded not guilty to seven criminal counts in Monterey County Superior Court on Thursday.

Prosecutors have charged Ian Czirban with two counts of insurance fraud, two counts of filing a forged document, tax evasion, failure to collect taxes and failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance.

All but one of the charges are felonies.

During the court hearing Czirban agreed not to engage in contracting jobs as his criminal case moves forward, according to Monterey County Managing Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel. Czirban currently owns Czirban Concrete Construction, an agency bulldozer contractor in the Madera County town of Coarsegold.

Czirban appeared with his attorney, Daniel Olmos, a Palo Alto-based lawyer specializing in financial fraud. Olmos declined to comment on the case.

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Czirban is scheduled to return to court on June 28 to set his preliminary hearing.

The arraignment came two months after prosecutors charged Czirban, who recruited Reagan in the early days of the Soberanes Fire near Big Sur last July.

Reagan’s death prompted investigations by Cal Firestate workplace regulators and the state agency that keeps tabs on California’s construction industry. The incident led to a wrongful death lawsuit against the state. And, it's made life tough for the family Reagan left behind.

It also brought attention to vulnerabilities faced by hundreds of private contractors that help battle California’s wildfires year after year.