Hemet-Ryan mourns one of its own

The funeral procession for Cory Iverson was reminiscent of that for President Roosevelt

Photo courtesy of the Iverson family
Cory Iverson with his wife,Ashley, and young daughter.

■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

Some say you can’t go home. Others say you always return home. When you lose a brave young man in the service of the nation, folks commiserate their loss wherever he may have touched the ground. We lost one of our own when Cory Iverson died in the Thomas fire, still blazing across the dry brush in Ventura/Santa Barbara Counties.
The unwelcome news shook our community like a 7.1 tremor. Cory was stationed at Hemet-Ryan Airport in southwest Hemet for two years prior to moving on to work in San Diego, where he was stationed at the time of his untimely demise.
A pall hung over Bambi’s Hangar One restaurant adjacent to the airport. Cal Firemen and their copters are regulars there for a bite to eat when not hovering over the hell fires that lay bare throughout California when so much as a spark on the wind can cause thousands of acres to blacken in the bat of an eyelash. These first responders risk all without any thought of self-preservation to prevent those flames from destroying our homes and property.
Cory Iverson was one of us. Men who worked here with him speak highly of who and what he was.
Mike Venable, one of his co-workers during his two years at Hemet-Ryan, spoke to this reporter during an afternoon this week. Having just stepped down from a plane at LAX, he took my call.
“He was the most straight-up guy you’d ever want to meet,” Mike said. “Always willing to lend a hand whenever asked. I doubt he ever had an enemy. He sure didn’t have any with the guys he worked with here in Hemet.”
Like the rest of the crew stationed at Hemet-Ryan, “I was shocked when I heard about it.”
Out of town at the time, Mike got the information from television news.
Only 32 years old, Cory had everything to live for—his wife Ashley, two year old daughter, and a second child on the way.
Cal Fire San Diego Chief Tony Mecham explained what he knew at the time. “He was part of a five-engine strike team and engaged in a very active part of the fire outside Fillmore at the time,” where they had been battling the humongous blaze since Dec. 5.

Photo courtesy of the Ventura County Fire Department
The Thomas Fire as it consumes a hillside outside Ventura.

Cory emulated his fireman uncle, a retired firefighter from Cal Fire San Diego. A spokesman from Cal Fire San Diego remembers Cory. “He was 17 when I met him and had already made up his mind that he would be a fireman. You could see the passion he had. He was all fireman from the beginning. Those of us who watched him grow up were proud of him.”
A coroner’s report stated that Iverson’s death was caused by “smoke Inhalation and burns.”
Cory Iverson had previously been stationed in Tuolumne County up in central California as well as Hemet-Ryan Helitack Base before his last assignment in Dulzura.
The funeral procession from Ventura County down to San Diego County was reminiscent of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from Warm Springs, Georgia, back to Washington during World War II.
Departing the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s office southward at 10 a.m. on Highway 10, the procession took a route into Los Angeles to the 405 Freeway, crossing the 405 at 10:56, then to the 91 Freeway east to Highway 15 into Riverside County. It passed through Lake Elsinore, Wildomar to the 15/215 interchange and on to Murrieta and Temecula, crossing Winchester Road onto 15 South and then on to San Diego.
Throughout the 3½ hour trip, folks lined up along the freeways and overpasses, waving flags and handkerchiefs. Grown men stood on overpasses saluting, tears flowing down weathered cheeks.
The Thomas Fire, as this is written, is 50 percent contained but still growing. It is near the top in acreage burned in any California Wildfire dating back to the late 1800s. Full containment is not expected until Jan. 7 or 8, 2018, having so far destroyed more than 1,000 homes and buildings and more than 265,000 acres.
Gov. Jerry Brown ordered that all State Capitol flags be lowered to half-staff in Iverson’s honor. “His bravery and years of committed service to the people of California will never be forgotten,” the governor said.
Those of us at The Valley Chronicle also salute our fallen hero. No one serves in more dangerous situations than a California fireman when the Santa Ana winds sweep down the canyons catching a spark and creating what has often been referred to as “hell’s fire winds.”
May Cory Iverson ever remain in our memories. Just sayin’

rustystrait@gmail.com

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