In Fighting California Wildfires, Hardscrabble Bulldozer Operators Are Secret Weapon

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NAPA COUNTY, Calif.—High on a ridge in Northern California, 68-year-old Ken Edwards finessed a bulldozer up a rocky slope to uproot a tree while, 10 feet away, a manzanita shrub went up in flames.

As the state’s wildfires burn more ferociously and break out simultaneously, stretching state resources thin, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, is growing increasingly reliant on contractors like Mr. Edwards to perform one of firefighting’s most critical tasks.

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