Friends Remember Local Firefighter Killed In State's Largest Wildfire

Cory Iverson was working with Cal Fire battling the Thomas Fire in Ventura County when he was killed on December 14.

Friends of Cory Iverson, a San Diego County firefighter killed while battling the largest fire in California history, shared their memories of Iverson.

Iverson was working with Cal Fire battling the Thomas Fire in Ventura County when he was killed on December 14.

He was part of a strike team made up of five engines on the front lines of the fire when an accident occurred. The 32-year-old firefighter died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.

NBC7 spoke with several people who first became acquainted with the firefighter from Escondido during his formative years as a firefighter.

Iverson volunteered at the Elfin Forest - Harmony Grove Fire Department between 2008 - 2015.

"Corey was so interested in learning. He would take additional classes, and go above and beyond what was necessary," said Frank Twohy, the fire chief at Elfin Forest - Harmony Grove Fire Department before it merged with Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District in 2015.

Iverson won the firefighter of the year award in 2010, a recognition given by colleagues, and would soon become a mentor to incoming firefighters.

"He was the best-trained wildland firefighter I have ever known," said Twohy. "And to hear that happen, of course, we're in a dangerous profession."

Nona and Steve Barker worked alongside Iverson. Nona was a captain, and Steve Barker was a battalion chief at the Elfin Forest - Harmony Grove Fire Department.

"If I looked in my truck, if I got in or if I was on duty and I had Cory, I was like, 'Oh, this is going to be a great day,' " Nona remembered. 

She describes Iverson as driven, smart and mature beyond his years.

"It's very unusual for someone so young, I think he was 22 when he came to our department, very, very unusual, to be so respectful."

Iverson was well known for leading friends and fellow firefighters on rigorous hikes in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve.

"I'd be walking and he'd be practically running with his personal protective equipment up the trails," said Steve Barker. "He was just a great guy and inspirational person to be around."

While colleagues describe Iverson as a standout firefighter, it was his warmth and good nature that many will miss most.

"Guys like that you're going miss," said Nona Barker. "He brought himself to the table. That's what we loved about him."

"He had a smile you, of course, couldn't turn away from," remembered Twohy. "And he had an easy way of conversation."

Twohy said Iverson would often stop by the fire station with his young daughter, even after leaving his volunteer fire position in Elfin Forest.

"He would come by with his daughter in a cart that he would use to run the trails here in his physical fitness," said Twohy. "He was so proud of that girl."

A line of duty death will be forever carried in the hearts of all firefighters, even as they move forward, Twohy noted.

"What you need to adopt with all of your people is the enthusiasm, the determination, the joy Cory brought to us in the fire service. Those are lessons that don't go away just because he's not here today." 

An online fundraising page has been set up for Iverson’s wife and daughter. 

Contact Us