FILLMORE (CBSLA) — A Cal Fire engineer with a pregnant wife died on the front lines of the Thomas Fire Thursday, authorities have confirmed.
A helicopter carrying retardant flying over a procession is an example of fire crews remaining focused while they mourned the loss of 32-year-old Corey Iverson. He and his wife Ashley also had a 2-year-old daughter. They were expecting their second child this spring.
“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.
“Corey is just a great young man and he was somebody who just really loved his job,” Chief Tony Mecham, of the San Diego County Fire Dept., said. “What really hit all of us today is that normally this time of year we’re supposed to be slowing down and spending time with our families.”
On Thursday CBS2’s Tom Wait reported from the same area last week where exhausted firefighters have been fighting the blaze.
“They are working so hard to knock these flames down, trying to get foscheck anything to draw fire lines to get crews up in the hills, to dig holes and trenches to stop those flames from moving,” Wait said. “It’s very, very difficult work, the terrain is so rugged, and so unforgiving up there….of course that is why that firefighter lost his life today.”
Just after 3 p.m CBS2’s helicopter captured firefighters and everyday people saluting Iverson’s hearse as it drove his body to the Ventura County Coroner’s office. His casket was drapped with the American Flag.
Firefighters were dressed in their formal black uniforms with armbands to honor him. Flags at all Cal Fire facilities have been lowered to half-staff.
Iverson died while battling the Thomas Fire in the hills above Fillmore. His body was retrieved in a hilly area.
Cal Fire says an accident team will investigate as the cause of death is unknown.
Maria Rosales and her family could see the flames from their home.
“At first it was just some but then it was the fire coming down and down,” Rosales said.
Iverson was member of Cal Fire based in San Diego and had been with the agency since 2009. As an engineer, Iverson was in charge of driving the truck and the movement of equipment.
“I really feel badly for them and everybody…this whole firefighting community is impacted,” A Fillmore resident said.