Firefighter assigned to largest California wildfire dies

Firefighters keep an eye on flames as pockets of unburned vegetation flare up off Bella Vista Drive in Montecito, California. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)
Updated 15 December 2017
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Firefighter assigned to largest California wildfire dies

SANTA BARBARA, California: One of the thousands of firefighters battling a series of wildfires across Southern California has died, but authorities gave no hint of how.
San Diego-based Cory Iverson was assigned to the blaze northwest of Los Angeles, which has become the fourth largest in California history. Iverson, 32, was an engineer with a state fire engine strike team. He died Thursday.
Dozens of police and fire vehicles escorted a hearse carrying Iverson’s flag-draped body to the county medical examiner’s office in Ventura.
Iverson had been with the state since 2009 and is survived by his pregnant wife and a 2-year-old daughter, said Fire Chief Ken Pimlott of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
It was the second death linked to the fire. A 70-year-old woman was killed in a car crash while evacuating as the fire raged last week. Her body was found inside the wrecked car along an evacuation route.
Pimlott did not provide any details about Iverson’s death but said it was under investigation by an accident review team.
A return of gusty Santa Ana winds brought renewed activity to inland portions of the so-called Thomas Fire straddling coastal Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Pimlott said he was “deeply saddened” by Iverson’s death but added that fire crews were continuing to focus on their mission.
“The firefight in front of us continues to go on. The communities we are protecting are depending on us and we will not fail,” he said at an afternoon news conference.
Authorities said it now covered 379 square miles (982 square kilometers). That surpassed a blaze that burned inland Santa Barbara County a decade ago.
Firefighting costs so far were tallied at $74.7 million, according to Cal Fire.
Some evacuations were lifted and the risk to the agricultural city of Fillmore was diminishing. But coastal enclaves to the west remained under threat as crews protected hillside homes in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.
The National Weather Service said extreme fire danger conditions could last through the weekend due to lack of moisture along with a likely increase in wind speeds.
Firefighters made some progress Wednesday on corralling the fire, which continued to spread mostly into national forest land.
Since the blaze broke out on Dec. 4, it has burned destroyed 970 buildings — including at least 700 homes. Flames threatened some 18,000 buildings and prompted evacuations of about 100,000 people. Covering more ground than the city of San Diego, it was 35 percent contained.


6 shot on street near north Florida stadium before NFL game

Updated 48 min 46 sec ago
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6 shot on street near north Florida stadium before NFL game

  • Police reported no link to the game, which went on without incident

JACKSONVILLE, Florida: Six people have been wounded in a street shooting blocks from the Florida stadium where the NFL’s Houston Texans played and defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Ron Lendvay, director of investigations for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said several shots rang out about 12:35 p.m. Sunday on a boulevard in the stadium’s general area and that five men and one woman were hit by gunfire. All were rushed to hospitals, and the sheriff’s office tweeted that three of the victims were in critical condition. The victims ranged in age from their 20s to the 70s, according to Lendvay.
The shooting broke out before the scheduled 1 p.m. start of play. Lendvay reported no link to the game, which went on without incident, and said investigators were investigating whether it was gang-related.
The Texans won their fourth consecutive game Sunday, defeating the Jaguars 20-7 to take a one-game lead in the AFC South at the stadium, TIAA Bank Field.
Local media reports cited authorities as saying the shooting had had no impact on game day activities though some fans headed to the game reported hearing the gunfire.
Lendvay told reporters that a shooter fired from the passenger side of a gray, four-door sedan driven by a companion and that the victims were hit outside on the sidewalk near a laundromat. He said the car immediately drove off and that detectives had been checking surveillance video in hopes of identifying the vehicle and those involved.
“There were at least two people in the car,” Lendvay said. He added that investigators didn’t know if any others were in the car and he didn’t rule out the possibility of other shooters elsewhere.
“This may be gang-related based on information obtained in the early stages of the investigation,” he told reporters Sunday, declining to elaborate.
Some fans told local broadcast outlet New4Jax that they heard shots as they headed to the stadium.
“We had just parked our cars,” Vanessa Holmes told the new outlet, adding she and some family members were walking when it happened. “We heard the shots. We didn’t know if we should fall to the ground. We didn’t know what to do,” she said.
Others told the broadcast outlet that they saw people running out of the coin laundry business when the shots were fired.
Some said it was a series of shots.
“We were over there talking and suddenly, it was like ten gunshots. We ran and went for cover and then I saw the police, and people were crowding down there,” a woman identified as Yvonne Lee told News4Jax.
An update on the conditions of the wounded wasn’t immediately available late Sunday and they were not identified by name.
“A couple of them were in very serious condition on their arrival at the hospital,” Lendvay said. He added that five of the wounded were rushed by paramedics for emergency care and the sixth by private vehicle.
He said authorities have been unable to immediately determine whether there was any relationship among the wounded, noting none could be immediately interviewed though authorities hoped to do so later.
“It’s hard to say if they are all associated or not,” he added.
Lendvay spoke near the scene Sunday afternoon even as the game was in progress, saying investigators had cordoned off the area but fans who had cars parked in the area could expect an escort to their vehicles so they could leave unhindered after play was over.
Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who represents the district where the shooting occurred, told local media he was aware of crime problems in the neighborhood and urged a greater law enforcement presence there.
“In talking to the sheriff’s department; they are going to beef up patrols ...We have a crime issue,” Gaffney said. “Every other week and every other month out there, it’s too much.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott also said in a statement that he had reached out to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, offering any state resources that the city may need.