Holding signs dedicated to fallen Cal Fire firefighter Cory Iverson, San Diego-area firefighters took to the streets Friday to raise money for the family Iverson leaves behind: his wife, toddler and unborn baby.
"We all try to stick together, help each other out, no matter what fire department it is," said Santee Fire Department Capt. Jason Custeau. "A lot of us know each other and we’re just trying to help each other’s families out."
Custeau and his crew were out bright and early at Mast Boulevard and West Hills Parkway near State Route 52, geared up, with a mission at hand.
In frigid temperatures, the firefighters -- holding boots bearing photos of Iverson -- approached motorists who dropped cash into the boots. The donations will go to Iverson’s family and will make sure they’re taken care of in the future.
Custeau said many of his colleagues are fathers themselves and the thought of Iverson not being able to be there for his family hurts their hearts.
"He’s not going to be there to provide for them anymore," he lamented. "So we’re doing anything we can do to help."
At that location, motorists frequently stopped to help. One woman, so determined to give, even stopped her car and asked a firefighter to get her purse out of her trunk so she could get to her wallet. He did, and she gave.
The morning boot drive also took place at intersections in other parts of the county including Poway, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, La Mesa, El Cajon, Lemon Grove, San Miguel, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Lakeside, Escondido, Vista and Oceanside.
Poway Fire Department Capt. Jeff Cole told NBC 7 the Coronado Fire Department would assist with the donation drive in Poway, and The Padres also offered to help at some intersections in Poway.
Iverson, 32, died of smoke inhalation and thermal injuries on Dec. 14 while battling the raging Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
The Cal Fire engineer, of Escondido, was part of a five-engine strike team with Cal Fire San Diego. The team was in an active area of the Thomas Fire in Fillmore, California, when an accident occurred on the lines.
Cal Fire is investigating the accident and those details will give more insight into the circumstances surrounding Iverson’s death.
On Dec. 17, Iverson’s body was returned to San Diego in a procession from Ventura County that spanned several Southern California freeways. Along the route, fellow firefighters and civilians stood at overpasses saluting and paying their respects to the fallen firefighter.
A private memorial will be held Saturday for Iverson at The Rock Church in Point Loma. He leaves behind his wife, Ashley, and their 2-year-old daughter. Ashley is pregnant with their second child, due in May.
Donations are being collected for his family via this online fundraising page created by a close friend and co-worker of Iverson’s widow. The money will assist the family with funeral arrangements and help care for Iverson’s children as they adjust to life without their father. As of Friday morning, that page had raised $575,000 of its $1 million goal.
The Cal Fire San Diego County Firefighters Benevolent Fund has also set up a fund to help Iverson’s family. Donations can be made online here or by mailing a check to:
Cal Fire San Diego County Firefighters Benevolent Fund
2650 Jamacha Rd., Suite #147
El Cajon, CA 92019
The Thomas Fire has been burning since Dec. 4 and has exploded into one of the largest wildfires in California history. As of 7:10 a.m. Friday, the blaze had scorched 272,800 acres and was 65 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.
The Thomas Fire has destroyed 775 single-family homes and damaged 208 others. Nineteen commercial properties have been destroyed, as well as 275 other minor structures. Per Cal Fire, 18,000 structures remain threatened.
Cal Fire expects to have the blaze fully contained by Jan. 7, 2018. To date, the total cost associated with fighting the Thomas Fire has reached more than $174 million.