Firefighter, 32, killed while battling Thomas Fire

Update Friday:

A GoFundMe has been created to support the wife and family of Cory Iverson.

Original post:

A Cal Fire firefighter died while battling the Thomas Fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, officials confirmed Thursday.

Cory Iverson, a San Diego-based fire engineer, died while working to turn back the fire, which has burned more than 240,000 acres. Iverson was 32 years old and had been with Cal Fire since 2009, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said.

Iverson is survived by his wife and 2-year-old daughter, Pimlott said. Iverson and his wife are expecting a second daughter in the spring.

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“Our thoughts and prayers are with Corey’s family and all of his friends and co-workers throughout the department and the fire service,” Pimlott said. “While we continue to process this tragic loss, we must keep our focus on the fire.”

“The communities we are protecting are depending on us, and we will not fail.”

Pimlott added that Cal Fire has initiated a serious accident review team to investigate the circumstances behind Iverson’s death, Pimlott said. No further information will be available until the review is complete, Pimlott said.

The firefighter’s death is the second confirmed fatality in the Thomas Fire. Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula was found dead at the site of a vehicle crash on Wheeler Canyon Road on Dec. 4. That area was under mandatory evacuation at the time, and officials have said the accident occurred while Pesola was fleeing the flames.

Iverson is the first professional state firefighter to die while fighting a fire this year. Earlier in the year, a Cal Fire contractor and two inmates assigned to firefighting crews were killed in three separate incidents.

The Thomas Fire had grown to 242,500 acres and was 30 percent contained as of Thursday morning, and officials were planning a prescribed burn “firing” operation in the Carpinteria Valley for Thursday afternoon.

People will see a lot more smoke as a result, according to the Santa Barbara City Fire Department.

This operation is not the same as the large-scale burn operation officials are considering as a contingency plan, to coax the blaze toward recent burn areas in an attempt to slow it down or stop the growth.

The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNewsand @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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