A whirlwind of embers is seen as the Thomas Fire approaches homes on Tuesday in Montecito.

A whirlwind of embers is seen as the Thomas Fire approaches homes on Tuesday in Montecito. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor

Updated 6:30 p.m.

Cal Fire says one of its firefighters died Thursday morning while battling the sprawling Thomas Fire in Ventura County.

Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said in a statement the fatality involved a crew member from one of the agency’s San Diego-based units:

I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident. The incident is still unfolding, but in this world of fast moving information, it is important to me that only factual information be shared. To that end, I can confirm a fatality of a CAL FIRE Engineer from the San Diego Unit has occurred. Incident Management Team 4, Cal Fire Local 2881 and Southern Region leadership are working to support the Unit and his family, who have been notified.

Pimlott later identified the fallen firefighter as Cory Iverson, 32, an eight-year Cal Fire veteran. Pimlott said Iverson is survived by his wife, Ashley, who is pregnant, and a 2-year-old daughter.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement saying he and his wife Anne were saddened by Iverson’s “tragic death.”

“His bravery and years of committed service to the people of California will never be forgotten,” Brown said.

Cal Fire did not immediately release details of the circumstances surrounding Iverson’s death.

The announcement a firefighter had died came after reports of a “serious accident” that occurred as crews worked to contain the blaze on the outskirts of the town of Fillmore.

Unconfirmed reports from independent radio operators monitoring Cal Fire communications say that a mayday call went out about 9:30 a.m. from a crew battling the blaze on Grand Avenue, on the northwest outskirts of Fillmore. Reports relayed on Twitter say the fire overran the crew.

AI6YR – Ham Radio on Twitter

ThomasFire #Fillmore Air Squad 8 now on scene of firefighter emergency (overrun by fire), also Air observer. They are still working on accountability of all resources on the line, in defensive position. NO status from the line since the call. They may now be on phone w/command.

Fillmore is a town of 15,000 on the Santa Clara River, about 45 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. As the fire spread early Thursday, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office imposed a mandatory evacuation order on the unincorporated area just north of town.

Danny Bowman on Twitter

From #Fillmore facing west toward #SantaPaula. The #ThomasFire went from behind that ridge down in about 10 minutes this morning. https://t.co/fxeBt5Krke

The Thomas Fire started last week under unprecedented December fire weather conditions and continues to be driven through bone-dry terrain by gusty winds and extremely low humidity levels.

Illustrating the continued explosive nature of the blaze, firefighters were also faced with a major flare-up in the Rose Valley area northeast of the town of Ojai. Structures in the area were apparently threatened as the fire burned across Highway 33 north of Wheeler Springs.

Smoke rises from the Rose Valley area northeast of Ojai as the Thomas Fire continued to spread Thursday. (Ventura County Office of Emergency Services via Twitter)

All told, the blaze has burned more than 240,000 acres and destroyed more than 900 structures in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties since it began Dec. 4 near the town of Santa Paula. Cal Fire said early Thursday the blaze was 30 percent contained.

Cal Fire Crew Member Killed as Thomas Fire Continues to Spread 14 December,2017Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

Twitter: twitter.com/danbrekke
Facebook: www.facebook.com/danbrekke
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/danbrekke


Ted Goldberg

Ted Goldberg is the morning editor for KQED News. His beat areas include San Francisco politics, the city’s fire department and the Bay Area’s refineries.

Prior to joining KQED in 2014, Ted worked at CBS News and WCBS AM in New York and Bay City News and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1998.

You can follow him at @TedrickG and reach him on email at tgoldberg@kqed.org