San Diego

Fallen Cal Fire Firefighter Yaroslav Katkov's Life Celebrated in Touching Ceremony

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

Cal Fire San Diego Firefighter Yaroslav Katkov received his last alarm on Tuesday during a celebration of life for the firefighter who died after suffering a medical emergency on a training hike last weekend.

"All stations Monte Vista, this is the final call for firefighter Yaroslav Igorevich Katkov," a fire dispatcher said over radio communications during the service. "His task complete. His duty well done. His final call. He is going home."

Friends, family and Cal Fire San Diego colleagues gathered to celebrate Katkov's life at North Coast Church in Vista while, across the state, flags at Cal Fire facilities were lowered to half-staff in his honor.

Sam Katkov paid tribute to his younger brother saying, “He always looked up to me as an older brother. Now is the time when I look up to him."

The Honor Guard opened the afternoon ceremony by leading Katkov's casket, carried by six Cal Fire pallbearers, into the church. 

Katkov, who was from Russia, was described by his family and friends as brave and kind-hearted. His father, Igor Katkov, said the firefighter was "an American hero and I am proud that his coffin will carry an American flag." 

In a moving tribute to his brother, Sam Kotkov described he and his brother's bond as children and how, in their adult lives, Katkov would tell him not to dwell on things he could not change. 

"It's easier to say than to actually do. Now he’s gone, that I cannot control, can't bring him back, yet I can't let him go," Sam Kotkov said. 

He said his brother, "never demanded sympathy or asked for too much attention. He would stay focused on the positive, always full of sincere love."

Cal Fire San Diego County Fire Chief Tony Mecham describes the grief he felt when 28-year-old Yaroslav Katkov died.

Katkov started with Cal Fire in 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, led by Chief Tony Mecham. 

"We truly hope that you will recognize that today is really a celebration of a great young man’s life," Mecham said addressing Katkov's family. 

Katkov, 28, died on July 29, 2019 after suffering a medical emergency during a training hike the day before, Mecham said. The firefighter was taken by air ambulance to Temecula Valley Hospital in Riverside County in critical condition. Despite medical staff efforts, he died Monday morning.

NBC 7's Erika Cervantes spoke to some of Cal Fire firefighter Yaroslav Katkov's high school football coaches.

Mecham said Katkov's fellow firefighters manned the hospital halls for hours as the young firefighter succumbed. He praised the resillience of his team through another loss. 

In 2017, Cal Fire Engineer Cory Iverson, of Escondido, died while battling the massive Thomas Fire in Northern California. 

"Our fire station has had far too many tragedies over the last three years, yet our employees’ courage, strength, honor and resilience is shown day after day," the chief said. 

Katkov 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.

Cal Fire San Diego lost one of their own this morning. NBC 7's Danica McAdams has the details.

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.

"Enthusiasm, dedication, passion -- these are the immediate words that came to mind of our academy staff this past week when we learned of the passing of recent graduate firefighter Yaroslav Katkov," Hall said.

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 tightknit community, and that only gets tighter as you work your way down to the engine company level," said Sanchez. 

The Honor Guard closed the ceremony by presenting an American Flag to Katkov's family. Pallbearers then carried the casket out of the church. 

He is survived by his mother, father and brother. 

Anyone wishing to pay their respects to the family can send cards and gifts to: 

Katkov Family c/o Issac Sanchez
2249 Jamacha Road
El Cajon, CA 92019

Contact Us