A local man began a cross-country bike trip to honor his friend and colleague, Cory Iverson, a Cal Fire firefighter who died battling the Thomas Fire in 2017.
Thomas Pitman will bike from the Imperial Beach Pier to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, covering nearly 2,500 miles and raising money for his friend along the way.
Iverson, an Escondido resident, died in Ventura County, fighting the blaze that spread to more than 242,500 acres.
He had worked with Cal Fire since 2009.
Pitman hopes to raise money to benefit a foundation created in Iverson’s name.
“I’m doing this to raise funds for his wife’s foundation that she pretty much set up in his memory and honor,” Pitman said.
The Iverson Foundation for Active Awareness (IFAA) aims to provide programs to help reduce the rates of suicide, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other stressors in the lives of first responders.
“The job impacts them whether you want to admit it or think it or not,” Iverson’s wife, Ashley, told NBC 7. “What they see and do on a daily basis is something that the human brain can only compartmentalize for so long."
Pitman’s goal is $2,426, one dollar for every mile ridden, according to IFAA’s website. When Pitman began the trek, he had already raised $760.
The money raised will “set up some peer support groups and some programs to get them to be proactive rather than reactive in [first responders] dealings with their mental health issues,” he said.
When asked about what will be going through his mind during his trip, Pitman joked, “How cold it’s going to be.”
Pitman went on to say the people in his life motivated him to take on this journey, including friends, family, and his fellow colleagues suffering from PTSD.
“I’m aiming to suffer with them on a daily basis, put myself through the hardships, metaphorically speaking,” Pitman said.
As to what Pitman will take with him on the trip, he said he’s bringing a tent, a sleeping bag, extra clothing, food, and a lot of water.
The trip is a self-supported tour, Pitman said. This means there won’t be additional crews helping him along the way or designated resupply points for the bicyclist.
"I'm just so proud," Ashley said. "There's so many things to honor my sweet husband but this may top them."
Pitman’s final stop is outside Surfer the Bar, a restaurant just off the state’s coast.
He is expected to complete the journey on Jan. 31.
Donations are accepted on IFAA’s website.