SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- The widow of a San Diego County firefighter killed on the job is honoring his legacy by helping the men and women still on the fire lines.
Cory Iverson, a Fire Apparatus Engineer for CAL FIRE, died battling the Thomas Fire in Ventura County last December.
He left behind his wife, Ashley, their 2-year-old daughter Evie, and, at the time, their unborn daughter, Taylor.
Now, Iverson is launching a foundation in memory of her husband. The goal of the Iverson Foundation for Active Awareness is to help firefighters deal with the stress and trauma of the job.
“The goal is to essentially change the culture in first responders. Right now, it's a strong men mentality and talking and expressing feelings and emotions is a sign of weakness, and that's false,” said Iverson.
Iverson said she isn’t discrediting mental health professionals, but she wants to make it easier and more routine for firefighters to talk about what they’re going through with their peers.
“What we are suggesting and hoping to implement, is a consistent maintenance for these men and women, giving them the ability to bring the darkness into the light when they need it.”
For starters, she hopes to implement weekly support groups at all fire stations. “So they're not having to go outside the job to search for a higher level of care, it's an idea that is pro-active rather than reactive. It's a pretty simple concept, honestly, it's just are they going to have the courage to go there and dig deep?"
Jason Farnsworth is a firefighter paramedic stationed at CAL FIRE Deer Springs Fire Station in Escondido.
He’s excited about the foundation. “It would make it a lot more easy for us to communicate, be open with each other, take that home and be open with our families as well," said Farnsworth.
Iverson, who has been open about her own struggles with depression and anxiety, said she has finally found a purpose.
"Cory's given me legs. I don't know how else to describe it. He's given me the gift of being able to see why I'm here.”
She said the idea for the foundation was almost immediate. “I realized that this is what I needed to do pretty much the day after it happened, and it's all love driven and it's all just being paved for me,” said Iverson.
This weekend the Fallbrook Firefighters Association is dedicating its annual 9/11 climb to Iverson and the foundation.
More information about the event and the foundation can be found here.