Friday, February 23 , 2018, 8:37 am | Fair 48º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Firefighter Killed Battling Thomas Fire Remembered as Superhero During San Diego Memorial

Thousands attend emotional celebration of life for CalFire engineer Cory Iverson, who is survived by his wife and 2 daughters

Ashley Iverson, widow of CalFire engineer Cory Iverson, who died fighting the Thomas Fire near Fillmore, speaks during a celebration of his life Saturday at The Rock Church in San Diego. “To you, my heart is obliterated for you,” she told her husband’s colleagues. “Today, I’m asking you to have the strength and courage Cory has, and continue to breathe each and every day and remember you are loved.”
Ashley Iverson, widow of CalFire engineer Cory Iverson, who died fighting the Thomas Fire near Fillmore, speaks during a celebration of his life Saturday at The Rock Church in San Diego. “To you, my heart is obliterated for you,” she told her husband’s colleagues. “Today, I’m asking you to have the strength and courage Cory has, and continue to breathe each and every day and remember you are loved.” (Noozhawk screen capture from The Rock Church)

Thousands gathered Saturday to celebrate the life of CalFire engineer Cory Iverson during an emotional memorial ceremony in San Diego. His widow said she will remember her husband as a superhero, and others spoke about the man known for his dedication, compassion and selflessness.

Iverson, 32, died Dec. 14 in Ventura County while battling the Thomas Fire, which is now the largest wildfire in modern California history since erupting Dec. 4 near Santa Paula.

As of Saturday, the fire had consumed 273,400 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties with containment at 65 percent. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

The fire destroyed more than 1,000 houses, but just two people were killed in the blaze: Iverson and a 70-year-old Santa Paula woman who died in a car crash while fleeing the flames in the early hours of the conflagration.

Featuring many firefighter honors and traditions, including the ringing of a bell and a last alarm, Iverson’s celebration of life occurred at The Rock Church in San Diego. The 2½-hour service also was livestreamed online.

Gov. Jerry Brown was among dignitaries in attendance for the ceremony, which included a drum and bagpipe corps.

“My sweet husband left this Earth not just a hero, but in my eyes he left us as a superhero,” said Iverson’s pregnant wife, Ashley, who vowed to make her husband proud and to no longer live in fear.

Cory Iverson, 32, is survived by his wife, Ashley, and their two daughters, 2-year-old Evie, and Taylor, who is due in the spring. Click to view larger
Cory Iverson, 32, is survived by his wife, Ashley, and their two daughters, 2-year-old Evie, and Taylor, who is due in the spring. (Noozhawk screen capture from The Rock Church)

The Iversons have a 2-year-old daughter, Evie, and are expecting another daughter, Taylor, in the spring.

Tony Mecham, CalFire’s San Diego unit chief, noted that Iverson’s death has been felt by his family, his fellow firefighters and the broader community.

“This past week has been a roller coaster of emotions as we struggled through moments of incredible despair and at other moments had our hearts filled with joy and amazement beyond belief,” he said.

“I am choosing today to believe that because Cory Iverson was a good person so many good things are happening.”

Iverson, who was born in Escondido, joined CalFire in 2009, working first in Riverside County before being selected to become an elite helitack firefighter at the Hemet-Ryan Air Attack Base in Riverside County.

Those elite firefighters are dropped into remote locations with chainsaws and hand tools, where crews beat blazes “with just sheer brawn and their brains,” Mecham said.

After Iverson’s death, Mecham gathered comments from colleagues, including one who said, “if you were going to clone a firefighter you would clone Cory Iverson.”

“As we begin what is meant as truly a celebration of life, I hope that we leave with just one message — that we should all live our lives a little bit more like Cory did by just being good people,” Mecham said.

An honor guard folds an American flag before presenting it to the Ashley Iverson, widow of CalFire engineer Cory Iverson. Click to view larger
An honor guard folds an American flag before presenting it to the Ashley Iverson, widow of CalFire engineer Cory Iverson. (Noozhawk screen capture from The Rock Church)

“Let there be no doubt to anybody in this room that Cory Iverson died a hero,” he added. “Cory Iverson lost his life for one very simple reason — he put others first.”

The morning Iverson died, his strike team was set to leave the fire line after 24 hours but flames were threatening the community of Fillmore so the crew battled on. Mecham said they chose to remain out of respect for their oath to “protect, safeguard and serve the residents of California.”

Ashley Iverson also had words for the strike team members with Iverson when he died from what authorities say was smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

“To you, my heart is obliterated for you,” she said. “None of us can come close to fathom the place you are in, but if you can, please hear me: You were there for a reason.

“You were there because the Lord knows you can withstand the horror. Today, I’m asking you to have the strength and courage Cory has, and continue to breathe each and every day and remember you are loved.”

She also noted the support for Iverson’s loved ones.

CalFire San Diego Unit Chief Tony Mecham thanked the Ventura County Fire Department for having its honor guard on the scene almost immediately after Cory Iverson’s death. “They have not left Cory’s side, and they are here today,” he said. Click to view larger
CalFire San Diego Unit Chief Tony Mecham thanked the Ventura County Fire Department for having its honor guard on the scene almost immediately after Cory Iverson’s death. “They have not left Cory’s side, and they are here today,” he said. (Noozhawk screen capture from The Rock Church)

“Never in a million years could I have ever imagined the outpouring of support,” she said. “It is something I never before felt worthy of and will simply never be able to repay,”

Mecham, too, expressed gratitude for the support he and his colleagues have received since Iverson’s death.

“I want to extend a very special thank you to Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen,” he said. “Mark, your fire department is a class act.”

Mecham noted that the Ventura County Fire Department’s honor guard stepped up 30 minutes after Iverson’s death so their fallen colleague would not be alone.

“And they have not left Cory’s side, and they are here today,” he added.

A GoFundMe page was established by Cal Fire Firefighters Local 2881 for Iverson’s family. Click here to make an online donation. As of Saturday, the site has raised nearly $600,000 toward its $1 million goal.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >