Cory Iverson and his family

Courtesy Photo

Cory Iverson and his family

Victims of the Thomas Fire

Firefighter Cory Iverson Died December 14; Evacuee Virginia Pesola on December 6

Though a record-shattering inferno, the Thomas Fire has led to the loss of only two lives: those of firefighter Cory Iverson and evacuee Virginia Rae Pesola.

Iverson was an apparatus engineer out of Cal Fire’s San Diego unit who was killed the morning of Thursday, December 14, on the fire’s eastern edge near Fillmore. Authorities said Iverson was part of a five-member strike team working near a “very active part of the fire.” They declined to describe exactly what wrong in detail before an investigation by Cal Fire is complete.

An eight-year veteran, the 32-year-old was the father of a 2-year-old daughter, and his wife has another on the way. His colleagues remembered him as a dedicated firefighter who was a joy to be around. His tragic death shook the entire firefighting community. “We had a very good day, but this was a very tough one for all of us,” Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Chris Childers said after the death at the incident briefing. “It always hits hard when a firefighter dies.”

A procession of firefighting vehicles with motorcycle escorts followed the hearse carrying Iverson’s body from the Ventura County medical examiner labs to his hometown of San Diego. Along the way, firefighters and the public lined overpasses to give Iverson a final salute.


Retired attorney Virginia Pesola died during the Thomas Fire after her car crashed in Santa Paula.

Pesola died on December 6, the third day of the Thomas Fire, while fleeing in her vehicle on Wheeler Canyon Road near Santa Paula. According to autopsy reports, the 70-year-old died of trauma, smoke, and burns. Details of the accident have not been released.

A longtime attorney, Pesola worked for the Santa Barbara County Counsel from 1996 to 1999. Shane Stark, former county counsel, remembered her as smart, ethical, and funny, with “a distinctive fashion and aesthetic sensibility.”

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

News Commentary: Ribbon Cutting Is Not as Easy as It Looks

Grand opening for new Eastside bridge conveys a tingle of progress.

Santa Barbara Rental Prices Have Skyrocketed Over the Last Five Years

The average rent for a South Coast studio is $1,553.

Trio Stops the Show at Board of Education

More than a dozen appeal to Santa Barbara Unified School District to maintain music classes and programs.

Santa Barbara District Attorney Endorses Villaraigosa for Governor

Joyce Dudley preferred the former Los Angeles mayor’s positions on crime and education.

San Marcos Principal Files Suit Against Santa Barbara Unified School District

Ed Behrens charges emotional and physical distress due to demotion.