Cal Fire San Diego Chief Tony Meacham says he took "the call that no fire chief ever wants to receive" Thursday when he was told a local firefighter had died battling the massive Thomas fire. Cory Iverson, a 32-year-old engineer with a state fire engine strike team, is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter, the AP reports. Meacham says Iverson, whose team had been fighting the blaze since Dec. 5, died while engaging with "a very active part of the fire" near Fillmore, Calif. Authorities have not disclosed how he died, but they say Iverson's death is being investigated by an accident review team.
"This incident has shaken our organization to the core," Meacham says, per the San Diego Union-Tribune. He says San Diego Fire-Rescue has sent eight fire engines to the blaze to give Iverson's Cal Fire colleagues time to grieve. The Thomas fire burning in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties is now the fourth-largest fire in California history, covering 379 square miles, and fire officials say they do not expect to have it fully contained for more than three weeks, the Los Angeles Times reports. The National Weather Service says stronger winds are likely to create extreme fire danger conditions over the weekend.