SAN DIEGO – A state firefighter who died in the battle with the largest wildfire recorded in California’s modern history was to extinguish a spot fire when he is caught by the fire will be fanned by the strong wind, the fire, the officials said.
A preliminary report of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says Cory Iverson, 32, died Dec. 14 fight Thomas Fire in Ventura County after running for his life through head-high vegetation and becoming trapped in a dead-end gulch.
Cal Fire said in the report released Tuesday to the San Diego Union Tribune that Iverson and four other firefighters were laying hose along a bulldozer created fire break when they turned their attention to a spot fire flared up about 20 feet (6 meters).
As Iverson reached the second spot and began to take action, it erupted. Almost at the same time, more spot fire broke out, cutting off his escape route, the officials said.
Iverson on the radio for “immediate air support” and ran down a hill trying to escape, the report said.
Staff at two helicopters dumping water on the fire trying to make a way of escape, saw him fall, and back again, ultimately ending in the gulch, where his body was found.
The vegetation was chest – to head-high, the report stated, “and in some cases all that could be seen was from the top of his helmet.”
Iverson died of thermal injuries and smoke inhalation, it said.
The rest of the strike team was able to get out unharmed.
The Thomas fire, which began Dec. 4 is the largest recorded in the state. It was 92 percent contained Thursday, when the firefighters were still putting out hot spots and smoldering areas. The huge blaze covered more than 440 square kilometres (1,140 sq. km) in Ventura and Santa Barbara county, killed two people, destroyed whole neighborhoods, and threatened the coast and foothill communities.
Information from: The San Diego Union-Tribune, http://www.utsandiego.com