A Firefighter died quenching Thomas fire as wind poses new threat

Updated Friday 15 December 2017 7:49
A Firefighter died quenching Thomas fire as wind poses new threat
A firefighter Cory Iverson, 32 died Thursday while battling the Thomas fire as authorities braced for new powerful winds that could pose threats to homes in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Pimlott identified the firefighter as fire apparatus engineer.

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Officials said a combination of Santa Ana and sundowner winds will hit the area from Thursday through Sunday, bringing new dangers to a fire that now ranks as the fourth-largest in the state’s modern history.

As they prepare for the new battle, firefighters were also grappling with loss.

“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” Chief Ken Pimlott, the director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 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 was assigned to the fire as a part of a strike team from Cal Fire’s San Diego unit. He started with Cal Fire in 2009. He is survived by his wife, Ashley, and their 2-year-old daughter Evie. The family is expecting a second daughter this spring.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Cory's family and all of his friends and co-workers throughout the department and the fire service,” he said.

He said an accident review team would investigate the circumstances of Iverson’s death.

“While we continue to process this tragic loss, we must keep our focus on the fire. The fire fight in front of us continues to go on,” he said. “The communities we are protecting are depending on us, and we will not fail.”

At 4 p.m., the body of the firefighter was loaded into a hearse and taken away, with firefighters lining the road in tribute.

Just hours before Iverson’s death, Pimlott appeared at a morning briefing where he emphasized safety over complacency. It’s during what seems like the least dangerous times — while mopping up hot spots, cutting burned trees or striding though charred rubble — that most injuries occur, he said.

While strategy was discussed as usual, there was an emphasis on staying vigilant as the fire’s eastern flank winds down. A retiring corrections officer warned firefighters not to become complacent during this incident, and said that should they find themselves relaxing, they should think about their colleagues who have been injured or lost their lives in seemingly low-risk situations.

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