Cal Fire San Diego is mourning the loss of one of their own: 28-year-old firefighter Yaroslav Katkov, who passed away on duty Monday morning.
Katkov suffered a medical emergency during a training hike Sunday morning with his engine crew, CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Chief Tony Mecham said in a statement.
He was airlifted by the Cal Fire/San Diego County Sheriff's Department helicopter and air ambulance to Temecula Valley Hospital in Riverside County in critical condition.
Despite medical staff efforts, he passed away on Monday morning.
Cal Fire San Diego Captain Issac Sanchez said the loss has been difficult for the Cal Fire community, especially because the firefighter was just starting his career.
"This is a very tight knit community, and that only gets tighter as you work your way down to the engine company level," said Sanchez.
The firefighter 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.
Katkov, who was from Russia, played football at Scripps Ranch High School. His former coaches said he knew little English and even less about American football when he joined the team, but finished his Falcon career as the starting center on a CIF semifinalist team.
"You get attached to these young men, you know? They're family. I can remember the first time I met him," Head Coach Sergio Diaz said. When he heard about Katkov's death, that first encounter came to mind. "He pulled up on a skateboard with long curly hair and just said 'I play football."
"I knew I loved him right away," he added. "He's the type of guy a special teams coordinator loves because he would just go out there and give it his all."
Katkov is survived by his mother, father and brother.
"On behalf of all Californians, Jennifer and I extend our sincere condolences to CAL FIRE Firefighter Yaroslav Katkov’s family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time," California Gov. Newsom said in a statement. "It’s the work of brave firefighters like Yaroslav that keep our communities safe, and we are deeply grateful for his service.”
Mecham directed all flags at Cal Fire facilities to half-staff. All uniform personnel have been directed to shroud their badges until further notice. California Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff as well.
No further information was available.