San Diego

Cal Fire Firefighter Died of Heat Exposure During July Hike, Autopsy Report Reveals

The 28-year-old firefighter first started as a seasonal firefighter in 2018, Cal Fire officials said.

A Cal Fire San Diego firefighter who died after collapsing during a training hike in July had a body temperature higher than 107 degrees, an autopsy report revealed. He died of heat exposure. 

Yaroslav Katkov, 28, was attempting for the second time in a matter of hours to complete a 1.45-mile training hike -- wearing full firefighting gear and carrying 20- to 30-pound weights -- when he started to become incoherent and collapsed on July 28, 2019, according to the report. 

His comrades immediately began to render aid but he was still unresponsive when medics arrived to the Lippe Hike at about 11:20 a.m.

Katkov was loaded into an air ambulance to be taken to Temecula Valley Hospital but en route, he suffered a two-minute seizure, the report revealed.

His body temperature was 107.4 degrees when he arrived at the hospital just after noon. Fifteen hours later, he was pronounced dead. 

His death was ruled accidental. 

A report released by Cal Fire in mid-August confirmed that Katkov complained  of exhaustion during the second hike, which was ordered by a fire captain because Katkov had failed to finish the first time in the expected 30 minutes. 

When the crew started the training at about 8:40 a.m., it was 75 degrees in the De Luz area near Fallbrook. 

Katkov was given a 20-minute break in between rounds. 

During both, Katkov had to stop multiple times. The report noted he took more than 20 breaks on the second loop. At one point, Katkov struggled to get up the steepest portion of the train and the fire captain ordered another firefighter to help him up. 

When Katkov collapsed, firefighters helped take off some of Katkov's gear and poured water on his head. 

The fire captain ordered an air ambulance when he noticed Katkov's mental health declining. 

Katkov had no underlying medical conditions that contributed to his death though his body mass index was in the obsese category, according to the Riverside County Coroner's Office. 

While he was in the hospital, nurses attempted to cool his body by surrounding him with ice packs and cooling blankets, the autopsy report said. 

He went into cardiac arrest twice and was revived once but succumbed just after 3 a.m. despite more than 30 minutes of recusitation. 

Katkov first started with Cal Fire August 2018 as a seasonal firefighter, He was assigned to the Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire Station 16 in the community of De Luz. 

The Russian native played football at Scripps Ranch High School. He finished his Falcon career as the starting center on a CIF semifinalist team.

He went on to participate in Miramar College's Fire Technology Program. Director Darren Hall said Katkov’s passion for firefighting began in the early stages of the program.

A touching tribute was held at the North Coast Church in Vista for the 28-year-old firefighter on Aug. 6. It was attended by friends, family and firefighters from across California. 

Katkov is survived by his mother, father and brother. 

Contact Us