AP NEWS

Firefighter killed in Thomas Fire: MVFD crew among 8,100 firefighters battling blaze

December 15, 2017 GMT

MOHAVE VALLEY — Firefighting efforts at the Thomas Fire in Southern California turned somber on Thursday following the death of a San Diego firefighter.

A crew from the Mohave Valley Fire Department is among the 8,100 firefighters assigned to the blaze in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” said 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.”

Pimlott said Cory Iverson was an engineer based in San Diego. Iverson had been with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection since 2009.

Dozens of police and fire vehicles escorted his body to the coroner’s office in Ventura County.

No other details about Iverson’s death were released Thursday.

It’s the second death blamed on the Thomas Fire, which has ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties for more than a week.

Authorities said a 70-year-old Santa Paula woman died from smoke inhalation and injuries from a car crash last week as she apparently tried to evacuate.

Mohave Valley Fire Department Engineer Paramedic Mike McDonald, along with crewmembers Engineer Humburto Rodriguez and firefighters Donald Perkins and Will Irvine are in California working the deadly blaze, helping to hold the line on what is now the fourth largest wildfire in California history.

The crew and its brush truck are working to improve containment lines around the Thomas Fire near the Cappuccina area, said Mohave Valley Fire Department Fire Marshal Don Gibson.

“That means they go through and put out all the little hot spots and pick up any fuels that could move the fire past the control line,” Gibson said.

More than 8,100 firefighters and 1,000 engines have been committed to the firefighting effort since the fire began on Dec. 4.

McDonald’s crew was dispatched Dec. 8 for a 14-day rotation that could be extended to 21 days, Gibson said.

The 242,500-acre blaze, which authorities currently describe as 30 percent contained, has affected more than 94,600 people and destroyed 970 homes. Eighteen thousand structures still are threatened by the massive fire burning in two California counties, according to Cal Fire. Mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders are still in place for areas in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The National Weather Service extended warnings through today of extreme fire danger conditions throughout much of Southern California due to lack of moisture along with a possible increase in wind gust speeds at the end of the week.

To the south in San Diego County, firefighters had come very close to containing another major wildfire. That blaze killed 46 race horses at a training center, and left one of their trainers with serious burns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.