A GoFundMe account has been created for the family of fallen San Diego firefighter Cory Iverson, 32, who died Thursday while battling the eastern flank of the Thomas Fire, near Fillmore and the Sespe. He leaves behind his wife, Ashley, and their two-year-old daughter, Evie. Ashley is pregnant with the couple’s second daughter, due this spring.
“As people are asking how they can help, what we know is that [the family] first needs your prayers,” wrote Cecily Bauchmann, a close friend of Ashley’s, on the GoFundMe page. “They also will need help in the coming year as they grieve and learn to adapt to life without Cory. This money will go to Ashley to use as needed ― for funeral arrangements, for their girls, for help with the home and the yard, whatever she needs as she grieves and adjusts.” The account was created on Thursday and by Friday afternoon had collected more than $153,000 in donations.
In a Friday report by the Los Angeles Times, Iverson was remembered by his fellow firefighters as a “great guy” who showed a passion for fire service at a young age. He was “the kind of firefighter you could rely on. He was the best fireman you could hope to have on your team,” Cal Fire spokesperson Jon Heggie, who personally knew Iverson, told the Times.
Iverson was an apparatus engineer in the state agency’s San Diego unit, where he’d worked since 2009. He had been with a five-engine strike team and engaged in a “very active part of the fire” when he was killed, officials said. No further details of the incident were released. All 17 of the strike team members, who’d been fighting the Thomas Fire since December 5, where pulled off the line.
Cal Fire Director Chief Ken Pimlott said during a Ventura press conference that an accident review team has been assigned to assess the circumstances around Iverson’s death. “Until this review is complete, there is nothing more that I can share,” he said. “What I can say is thank you for the outpouring of support for Cory’s family and the Cal Fire family.”
Cal Fire union leader Mike Lopez issued a statement Friday morning: “As colleagues and as human beings we grieve for this young man with such a bright future and the young family that will no 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.”
Santa Barbara area wildfires have claimed the lives of at least five other firefighters over the years. During the 1964 Coyote Fire, which scorched 67,000 acres of front country from Carpinteria to Goleta, destroying 94 homes and injuring 227 people, Siskiyou County firefighter John L. Patterson, a 45-year-old father of four, was killed. He and four other firefighters became trapped in Romero Canyon above Summerland. The three other men barely escaped by covering themselves with soil along a dirt road as the fast-moving fire raced past.
In 1971, four firefighters lost their lives battling the Romero Fire, which burned south and east of the Coyote scar, and is now part of the western edge of the Thomas Fire. The men were operating a bulldozer that became trapped on a ridge and overwhelmed by flames. Their names were Richard Cumor, 26, of Bishop; Delbert Dale Deloach, 26, of Mammoth Lakes; Thomas H. Klepperich, 21; and James Russell Mineau, 43, of Arroyo Grande.