SANTA BARBARA (CBSLA/AP) — A CAL Fire engineer has died while battling the Thomas Fire, officials confirmed Thursday afternoon.
“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” CAL Fire Chief Ken Pimlott wrote in a brief statement.
The victim, identified as Cory Iverson, 32, was with the CAL Fire San Diego unit, Pimlott added. No details were provided regarding the cause or location of the fatality.
He is the second person to die in the Thomas Fire. Last week, a 70-year-old Santa Paula woman was found dead at the site of a car crash on an evacuation route for the Thomas Fire. She apparently died of smoke inhalation, Ventura County authorities said.
The 242,500-acre Thomas Fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties was 30 percent contained as of Thursday morning. It continues to threaten the Santa Barbara County communities of Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito, where mandatory and voluntary evacuations remain in place.
Thomas Fire: Closures and Evacuations
With the fire flaring up, Ventura County Sheriff’s officials Thursday reiterated that mandatory evacuation orders were in place for the following areas in Fillmore: Hall Road to the west, Sespe Creek to the east, the Los Padres National Forest boundary to the north, and the Fillmore City limits to the south.
Latest Coverage: The Southern California Wildfires
Since the blaze broke out on Dec. 4 in the area of Highway 150 and 126, it has burned more than 372 square miles and destroyed 972 buildings — including at least 700 homes – and damaged 221 more. Flames threaten some 18,000 buildings and prompted evacuations of about 100,000 people. Covering as much ground as the city of San Diego, it is now the fourth-largest wildfire in California history.
Schools were closed and many roads remained shut down. The USA Water Polo Women’s National Team match against the Netherlands scheduled for Saturday in Santa Barbara was moved to Orange County.
Firefighting costs so far were tallied at $74.7 million, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
A Red Flag Warning remains in effect through at least 10 a.m. Friday. The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds. Gusts were expected to top 35 miles per hour by midday Thursday.
“Very high fuel loading, critically low fuel moistures, above average temperatures and single-digit relative humidities will continue to support fire growth on the west, east and north sides of the Thomas Incident,” CAL Fire wrote Thursday.
Firefighters made progress Wednesday on corralling the Thomas Fire, which continued to spread mostly into national forest land.
More than 8,100 firefighters are battling the blaze. The fire is burning through regions that have seen no rain in months and vegetation that has not burned in 50 years.