Firefighter dies battling southern California wildfire

Firefighters knock down flames as they advance on homes atop Shepherd Mesa Road in Carpinteria. (REUTERS/Mike Eliason)

A firefighter has died Thursday while battling the massive Thomas Fire that continues to blaze in southern California.

The fallen fireman was 32-year old Cory David Iverson, who was a fire apparatus engineer from San Diego. Iverson drove a fire engine to combat the blaze on the east flank of the Thomas Fire, where he was killed.

“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection director Chief Ken Pimlott said in a statement. “Please join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers and all the responders on the front lines in your thoughts as they continue to work under extremely challenging conditions.”

Iverson, who had been working at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection since 2009, was on a strike team with two or three other crew members while working to control the wildfire. After the fatal incident, he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Iverson’s death is the first firefighter fatality recorded as a result of the recent massive wildfires across California. He leaves behind his wife, Ashley, a 2-year old daughter named Evie, and an unborn baby expected to arrive in the spring.

On Thursday afternoon, Iverson was honored in a procession was held on Highway 126 in Filmore. As his colleagues mourn Iverson’s passing, they continue to wage war against the wildfire, which is expected to pose new threats to residential areas in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties due to the onset of powerful winds.

The Thomas fire has been burning since Dec. 4, and despite firefighters’ greatest efforts, has only been 35 percent contained. The fire has ravaged over 252,500 acres of land and has grown to be the largest fire of the 2017 California wildfire season and the fourth largest in the state’s modern history.