Firefighter Dies Battling Massive California Blaze

Winds temporarily calm on lines of huge California wildfire

Fire officials confirmed Thursday that a firefighter died while battling the Thomas fire, which ranks as the fourth-largest in the state's modern history.

He is survived by his wife, Ashley, who is pregnant, and their two-year-old daughter, Evie; mother, Denise Butler; stepfather, Scott Butler; and father, Craig Iverson.

Pimlott did not provide any details about Iverson's death but said it was under investigation by an accident review team.

A lull in the winds a day earlier sapped the forward momentum of the Thomas Fire, which has charred more than 368 square miles (953 square km) in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, an area larger than New York City.

Mowry said it's the latest that Alaska fire fighters have gone south to work, noting that fire seasons have been extending longer in recent years.

The firefighters from Utah are "all in good shape", Sandstrom said. Iverson was with a strike team of two or three other crew members when he was killed, she said.

"I am very saddened to report that a firefighter fatality has occurred on the Thomas Incident", Ken Pimlott, the director of Cal Fire, said in a statement. It's during what seems like the least unsafe times - while mopping up hot spots, cutting burned trees or striding though charred rubble - that most injuries occur, he said.

California utilities may face tougher safety rules for power lines, phone lines and utility poles in parts of the state most prone to wildfires.

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Over 900 homes in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have been destroyed in the blaze and thousands more structures are in danger at this time.

Firefighting costs so far were tallied at $74.7 million, according to Cal Fire.

The 4,100 acre fire now has 137 fire personnel assigned, a reduction from the 267 that was battling the blaze on Wednesday evening.

The wildfire's rapid expansion has required assistance from various crews in the Southern California area.

Previously, fire department officials said the blaze began just before 5 a.m. December 6 in a brush area adjacent to where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the 405 Freeway in the Bel Air/Holmby Hills area.

October's wine country fires, which killed 44 people, turned Santa Rosa neighborhoods to ash and damaged or destroyed more than $3 billion in property, serve as a sober warning of how bad this can get.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for swathes of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.

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