Firefighter Dies in Thomas Blaze

VENTURA AND SB COUNTIES, CA – In what is now considered California’s 4th largest fire, 32-year old Fire Apparatus Engineer Cory Iverson died Thursday while battling the blaze in steep terrain in the hills outside Fillmore. Iverson was part of fire engine strike team out of San Diego. He leaves behind his wife, Ashley, who is pregnant, and a 2-year old daughter.

Chief Ken Pimlott said a Cal Fire serious accident review team is looking into the circumstances surrounding his death, the second confirmed fatality linked to the Thomas Fire. A 70-year old woman was found dead at the site of a car accident last week on Wheeler Canyon Road, which was under a mandatory evacuation order.

According to Dave Zaniboni, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, despite a couple of days of reduced winds and feverish efforts by firefighters to establish new containment lines, the 249,500-acre Thomas fire has surpassed the size of the Zaca fire, which scorched Santa Barbara County in 2007.

With 35% containment, the fire, 60 miles long and 40 miles wide, has destroyed more than 900 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties since it began Dec. 4 near Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. In its first day, the fire spread southwest, toward Ventura, and northwest, eventually hugging Ojai before pushing to the Central Coast.

Authorities said a blend of Santa Ana and sundowner winds will hit the zone from Thursday through Sunday, conveying new risks to the fire which authorities said they didn’t hope to achieve full regulation of the fire until the end of the first week in January.

Over the past few days, a break in the weather has allowed firefighters to increase containment.