Berkeley Firefighter Dies in Tractor Accident While Prepping For Storm

By Lisa Fernandez, Norbert Lee and Alix Martichoux
|  Monday, Feb 24, 2014  |  Updated 11:44 AM PDT
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Flags flew at half-staff on Monday at a Berkeley fire station in honor of a firefighter who was crushed by a tractor on his property as he was most likely clearing a fire trail in preparation for an upcoming storm.  Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong identified the firefighter as 54-year-old Toney Nunes, who would have celebrated his 28th anniversary with the Berkeley Fire Department on Monday, and who Dong said was best known for his sense of humor and his

Flags flew at half-staff on Monday at a Berkeley fire station in honor of a firefighter who was crushed by a tractor on his property as he was most likely clearing a fire trail in preparation for an upcoming storm. Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong identified the firefighter as 54-year-old Toney Nunes, who would have celebrated his 28th anniversary with the Berkeley Fire Department on Monday, and who Dong said was best known for his sense of humor and his "joy" in taking children on fire house tours of Station No. 7. Christie Smith reports

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Flags flew at half-staff on Monday at a Berkeley fire station in honor of a firefighter who was crushed by a tractor on his property as he was most likely clearing a fire trail in preparation for an upcoming storm.

Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong identified the firefighter as 54-year-old Toney Nunes, who would have celebrated his 28th anniversary with the Berkeley Fire Department on Monday, and who Dong said was best known for his sense of humor and his "joy" in taking children on fire house tours of Station No. 7.

MORE: Series of Storms to Bring Rain to Bay Area

"Our loss and grief goes beyond Berkeley and the city," Dong said outside the station. "He was one of our finest. Please give us some time to grieve. It's going to be a tough day and a tough week."

The Contra Costa County Fire Protection District responded to Nunes's Martinez home on Sunday around 6:40 p.m. to find that his tractor had rolled down 200 feet off the family property near Bear Creek Road and Alhambra Valley Road, pinning him underneath.

Nunes was taken to the hospital with "severe injuries." Dong said he believed that Nunes was up on the family property, most likely clearing a fire trail before a much-needed rainstorm is expected to hit Bay Area this week. Dong added that he also might have been working on the property simply to clear the trail before the start of fire season.

The fire agency that rushed to help is also the agency where Nunes once worked, and where two of his other brothers once worked.

One of his brothers, Capt. John Nunes, worked for the fire agency until he died of leukemia in 2009. His other brother, Lawrence Nunes, retired as a battalion chief there in 2011, and his brother, Ed Nunes, is a reserve firefighter for the East Bay Regional Park Fire District.

Nunes, who is a father to two grown children, had also worked in Piedmont, and was a huge San Francisco 49ers fan, as well as a pilot, Dong said.

He was known for his jokes and for imitations of fellow firefighters "that made us all laugh," Dong said. "He lit up a room whenever he walked in."

 

NBC Bay Area's Shelby Hansen and Christie Smith contributed to this report.

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