State Cites Employer of Truck Driver Killed Helping Battle North Bay Wildfires

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Garrett Angel Paiz, a volunteer firefighter from Noel, Missouri, was killed on Oct. 16, 2017, when his water truck crashed in Napa County as he helped fight the Northern California fires. (Courtesy of Cinthia Ann-Marie Paiz)

State workplace regulators have penalized the firm that hired the man killed while helping to fight the Nuns Fire in Napa County last month for failing to provide workers' compensation insurance.

Garrett Paiz, 38, died Oct. 16 when his water tanker overturned on Oakville Grade on the west side of the Napa Valley.

Paiz was the only firefighter to die in the series of blazes that killed 42 others and destroyed 8,900 structure in four counties.

Cal Fire requires contractors that supply bulldozers and water tenders, as well as people to operate them, to provide workers' compensation coverage.

The company that employed Paiz, Red Bluff-based Tehama Transport, registered with the agency as an owner/operator, according to state fire officials. Under that classification, the firm was saying that Paiz had ownership in the firm or was a relative of someone who did.


That claim prompted an investigation by the California Department of Industrial Relations and the state Labor Commissioner's Office. The probe found the firm had employed eight people from July through early November.

The commissioner's office cited Tehama Transport for failure to carry workers' comp for the eight employees and issued a $12,000 fine against the company. The agency also ordered the company to stop using any workers in its business.

Tehama Transport appealed the penalty, leading to a hearing that took place Monday. A hearing officer's decision on the dispute is pending.

Tehama Transport declined to comment.

Cal Fire has hired the company 56 times and the U.S. Forest Service has hired the firm 47 times since 2006, according to documents obtained by KQED.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the crash that killed Paiz. CHP records show the truck involved in the incident was briefly taken off the road last year because of maintenance concerns.

Paiz is the third private contractor in 16 months to be killed or seriously injured helping battle a large California wildfire whose employer failed to obtain workers' compensation coverage.

The company that hired Robert Reagan, killed in July 2016 when his bulldozer rolled over in the Soberanes Fire near Big Sur, did not have a workers' comp policy. The firm that employed John Tiersma, a water tender driver seriously injured weeks later on the same fire, also did not have workers' comp coverage.