A San Diego County firefighter died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries while battling the massive Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, a medical examiner determined Saturday.
Cal Fire Engineer Cory Iverson, 32, of Escondido was part of a strike team made up of five engines with Cal Fire San Diego that were in an active area of the Thomas Fire in Fillmore, California when an accident occurred at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Iverson was killed in the accident. The Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office said Saturday Iverson died of thermal injuries and smoke inhalation.
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Cal Fire said they are conducting an investigation into the incident, which will provide insight into the circumstances surrounding the death.
A procession will be held Sunday starting at 10 a.m., transporting Iverson's remains from Ventura County across several Los Angeles and San Bernardino county freeways before entering San Diego County via southbound Interstate 15 at about 1:20 p.m.
The procession will continue to travel along I-15, passing SR-78 at about 1:45 p.m. and Camino Del Norte at about 1:50 p.m. before exiting at Miramar Road at 2 p.m.
Iverson's remains are expected to arrive at El Camino Memorial Park on Carroll Canyon Road at 2:12 p.m.
A memorial service will be held for Iverson at The Rock Church on Rosecrans Street in Point Loma next Saturday at 10 a.m.
Iverson leaves behind his wife, Ashley and their two-year-old daughter. The couple was expecting their second child in May.
Those who knew Iverson said the top priority right now is to take care of his family. Online fundraising efforts are underway to do just that.
An online fundraising page was created by a close friend and co-worker of Iverson’s widow to assist the family with funeral costs and other expenses they may have. In it's first few hours live, the page had already raised $20,000 for the Iversons.
By Saturday afternoon, the page was nearing $300,000.
Cal Fire San Diego County Firefighters Benevolent Fund has also set up a donation page for Iverson’s family. Donations can be made here.
Iverson's remains were taken in a procession to the coroner's office Friday. Along the way, firefighters stood in salute on a freeway overpass and on top of fire department vehicles lining the side of a street.
The 32-year-old had spent most of his life fighting fires. Iverson was an eight-year veteran of Cal Fire and had previously spent seven years with Harmony Grove Fire Department.
Iverson’s friends and co-workers said they’re heartbroken over his death.
“I can only imagine the pain that his family and his are going through,” said Cal Fire Capt. John Heggie. “My heart’s shattered knowing what happened to him and knowing what his family is going through.”
They described him as a model firefighter and happy man who was always in a good mood, whether he was at the fire station on or the lines.
“To put it bluntly, he’s the kind of man you’d want your daughter to marry and the type of fireman you’d want your son to grow up to be,” Heggie added.
Following Iverson’s death, 17 San Diego-based firefighters with Cal Fire were taken off the Thomas Fire lines so they could return home to grieve the death of their colleague.
The death is the second attributed to the fire, which was in its 12th day of burning Saturday and spanned both Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The blaze had exploded to 259,000 acres, surpassing the 2007 Zaca fire to become the state's fourth-largest wildfire on record.
Cal Fire estimated firefighting costs were nearing $104 million.
Firefighters had the blaze 40 percent contained with full containment expected Jan. 7, 2018.