Updated at 10:55 p.m. ET
California fire officials say the massive Thomas Fire has claimed the life of a firefighter.
The body of Cory Iverson, a 32-year-old father from Escondido, Calif., was driven out of the fire zone in a procession as firefighters lined the road saluting in respect.
“I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident,” Chief Ken Pimlott, the director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, tweeted earlier in the day. “Please join me in keeping our fallen firefighter and his loved ones in your prayers and all the responders on the front lines in your thoughts as they continue to work under extremely challenging conditions.”
Officials said Iverson died north of the town of Fillmore in Ventura County. They released no other details pending an investigation.
Iverson had been a firefighter with Cal Fire since 2009. He is survived by his wife, Ashley, who is pregnant, and their 2-year-old daughter.
It was the second death attributed to the fire. Last week a 70-year-old woman was found dead in a car which apparently crashed as she was trying to evacuate from the fire zone.
The Thomas Fire has charred 249,500 acres and is only 35 percent contained. It is now reported to be the fourth-largest fire in California history. Officials say they don’t expect to fully contain it until Jan. 7.
A CalFire progress report issued Thursday evening said, “A Red Flag Warning will continue until 10:00 AM Friday. Current weather patterns and rugged terrain make firefighting efforts very difficult.”
More than 8,300 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is estimated to have caused more than $82.1 million in firefighting costs. Hot gusty winds and bone-dry fuels continue to feed the fire as it threatens communities in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It has destroyed more than 900 structures, including 730 homes, as it continues to threaten about 18,000 buildings.
The last time Santa Barbara County saw such a ferocious blaze was 10 years ago, when the Zaca Fire burned just over 240,000 acres. The Thomas Fire has surpassed that and is still growing.
“This thing is 60 miles long and 40 miles wide,” fire behavior analyst Tim Chavez told the Los Angeles Times. “There’s a lot of fire out there.”