Cal Fire San Diego firefighter Cory Iverson dies battling Thomas Fire

Donations grow for fallen firefighter's family

(KGTV) - An 8-year Cal Fire engineer from San Diego has died battling the Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

The firefighter, initially identified as a Cal Fire engineer from San Diego, died Thursday, according to Cal Fire Director Chief Ken Pimlott. Officials later confirmed the firefighter as 32-year-old Cory Iverson, a Cal Fire San Diego unit fire apparatus engineer stationed in Dulzura.

"Today has been a tragic and devastating day," Cal Fire San Diego County Fire Chief Tony Mecham said in a press conference late Thursday. "This incident has shaken our organization to the core."

INTERACTIVE MAP: Thomas Fire, Skirball Fire, Creek Fire, Rye Fire, info and evacuations

Iverson was assigned to the blaze as part of a fire engine strike team from Cal Fire San Diego. He was reportedly in a very active area of the fire around 9:30 a.m. when he died.

Cal Fire Local 2881 President Mike Lopez issued a statement regarding Iverson's passing:

"Firefighting is a noble profession and the men and women who make it their life sometimes pay for it with their lives. As colleagues and as human beings we grieve for this young man with such a bright future and the young family that will now go forward without a loving husband and father. We pray that they will always understand that Cory was a hero and, because of him, our communities are safe and people are able to sleep knowing that the dangerous calls get answered by someone. This holiday season is now a time to grieve and to reflect and to remember that security comes with a price."

The cause of the Iverson's death was not immediately released. Cal Fire has assigned a "serious accident review team" to look into the cause.

Ventura County sheriff's officials said Iverson suffered fatal injuries near the eastern flank of the Thomas Fire between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Thursday, according to ABC's Los Angeles-affiliate KABC.

RELATED: Thomas Fire grows, continues to threaten Ventura County residents and homes

The entire strike team Iverson was working a part of has been pulled from the fire line following his death, according to Cal Fire. No other firefighters were injured.

Cal Fire received support from San Diego Fire-Rescue following Iverson's death. SDFD moved eight engines to Cal Fire to let employees grieve.

An earlier release from Pimlott read:

I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident. The incident is still unfolding, but in this world of fast moving information, it is important to me that only factual information be shared. To that end, I can confirm a fatality of a CAL FIRE Engineer from the San Diego Unit has occurred. IMT 4, CAL FIRE Local 2881 and Southern Region leadership are working to support the Unit and his family, who have been notified.

More details will be made available as they are confirmed. In the meantime, please join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers all the responders on the front lines in your thoughts as they continue to work under extremely challenging conditions.

Iverson had been with Cal Fire since 2009.

"He’s a great young man, somebody who really loved his job," Mecham said.

He is survived by his wife, two-year-old daughter, mother, father, stepfather, sister, and brother. His wife is currently expecting a second daughter this spring, according to Cal Fire.

A GoFundMe account has been established to assist the family. In 18 hours, the fund has raised more than $150,000, with the goal set at $350,000.

Watch the press conference with Mecham live on 10News's Facebook:

Iverson's body was removed from the site of his death in a procession into Ventura County.

Watch the procession live on 10News's Facebook:

The Thomas Fire has burned about 242,500 acres and is 30 percent contained, as of Thursday. Crews estimate 972 structures have been destroyed and 258 structures have been damaged.

The blaze sparked in Ventura County last week near Highway 150 and Highway 126, just north of Santa Paula.

The blaze is now the fourth largest fire in California history.

Fire experts say California's fires are collectively burning an area larger than New York City and Boston combined.

LATEST THOMAS FIRE NUMBERS (5 P.M. PST, THURSDAY)

Acres & containment: 242,500 acres, 30% contained as of Thursday afternoon; Cal Fire estimates the cost to fight the fire at about $48 million.

Damages: 972 structures destroyed, 258 damaged. Officials say at least 18,000 structures are still being threatened.

Evacuations: Latest Santa Barbara County information | Latest Ventura County information

Personnel: 8,144 personnel involved in the firefighting effort.

Equipment: 1,004 fire engines, 27 helicopters, 59 water tenders, 80 dozers, 152 crews.

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