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Braden Varney – The Lives He Touched

Hard working, protector, giving, loving, sensitive, kind and quiet are a few words that describe Braden Varney. Son, brother, husband, father and friend explain the lives he’s touched.

Braden was born to Gordie and Lynn Varney on May 12, 1982.

At the young age of four, Braden operated his first snow plow that Gordie made him out of a riding lawn mower with a water tank heater chopped in half as a blade, complete with a pulley system to raise and lower the tank. Lynn often found Braden putting on his boots and sneaking out of the house to go to work at first light.

Braden attended Woodland Elementary School where he made many lifelong friends. In fifth grade, Braden acquired the love of dirt when his whopping 72-pound pumpkin won first prize and grew to an incredible 4’ 8” around.

By middle school, Braden could run anything with tracks or wheels. Braden’s face was often on the front page of the hometown paper like when his baseball team, coached by his dad, went undefeated. Braden developed into a handsome young man to the point older girls were passing him notes and often he sought counsel from his younger sister.

In Mariposa County High School, Braden was known for hitting home runs and working long hours to buy his first motocross bike. Again, making the front page of the extreme riding magazine.

After graduating in 2001, he enrolled in Modesto Junior College and would start three weeks late every year due to fire season, where he operated a dozer for a private contractor.

Braden was an outdoors man and always on the go whether with friends at the lake, hunting, fishing or working. He never liked to be inside. It was during this time that Varney Grading was established.

Braden and Gordie worked alongside each other where they specialized in “Anything in dirt.” Their passion for helping others paired with doing what they loved made for a successful business venture.

In 2007, Braden started his career as a Heavy Fire Equipment Operator following in his dad’s footsteps, and often working on the same fireline.

On February 19, 2011, he married the love of this life, Jessica, at Thomas Estates in Pleasanton. On that day, Braden’s house became a home. In the years to come, Braden and Jessica were blessed with two amazing children – their daughter Maleah and son Nolan.

Every free moment he had, Braden spent with his children. Maleah was daddy’s little princess and together they enjoyed playing dolls and the crocodile. Nolan and daddy bonded in the dirt. He inherited the operator gene and at the age of two, nearly mastered the mini excavator.

On July 14, 2018 Braden made the front-page headlines once again doing what he loved. He will forever be our hero.

John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Braden is survived by his wife Jessica, daughter Maleah age 5, son Nolan age 3, mother Lynn Varney, sister Chale Kirchner and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceded in death by his father Gordie Varney.

Celebration of Life

A celebration of the life of HFEO Braden Varney will be held on Monday, July 23, at The House Modesto, 1601 Coffee Road. A procession will begin at 10:30 a.m. outside the church, and services will begin at 11 a.m.

Though the service is not closed to the public, family and friends, fellow firefighters and officials from across the state will be in attendance, and the church will likely be full. Members of the public are invited and encouraged to pay their final respects to Braden Varney by lining the procession route (please see map below). The service will also be live-streamed at 11 a.m. at


The men and women of today’s fire service are confronted with a more dangerous work environment than ever before. We are forced to continually change our strategies and tactics to accomplish our tasks.

Our methods may have changed, but our goals remain the same as they were in the past: to save lives and to protect property. Sometimes this is done at a terrible cost. However, this is what we do. This is our chosen profession; this is the tradition of the firefighter.

The fire service of today is ever changing, but is steeped in traditions over 200 years old. One such tradition is the sounding of a bell. In the past, as firefighters began their tour of duty, it was the bell that signaled the beginning of the day’s shift. Through the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which summoned these brave souls to fight fires and place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow citizens.

When the fire was out and all the tasks had come to an end, it was the bell that signaled to all, the completion of that alarm.

When a firefighter died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice, it was the mournful toll of the bell that tearfully announced… the passing of a fellow firefighter.

We utilize these traditions as symbols, which reflect honor and respect for those who have given so much, and who have served… so well.

To symbolize the devotion that these brave souls had for their duty… a special signal of 3 rings, 3 times… represents the end of the firefighter’s duties, and that they will be returning to quarters.

Finally, to our brothers and sisters who have devotedly given their lives for the good of their fellow citizens, their task completed, their duties well done, to their last alarm…
they are going home.

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