Family, friends celebrate late firefighter’s life

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VISTA, Calif. — A celebration of life was held Tuesday in Vista for a 28-year-old Cal Fire firefighter from Escondido who died after suffering a medical emergency during a training hike with his engine crew.

Yaroslav Katkov was airlifted from the hike to Temecula Valley Hospital July 28 and pronounced dead July 29, according to Cal Fire Chief Tony Mecham. The cause of death was not disclosed.

According to Mecham, Katkov, who immigrated from Russia as a child, joined Cal Fire last August as a seasonal firefighter and was assigned to Station 16 in the unincorporated area of De Luz, six miles northwest of Fallbrook.

His fellow firefighters remembered Katkov’s excitement going out on his first call.

“There was Yaro in the back seat,” Mecham said. “He was seat belted in, helmet on, shroud down, shroud covering his face, goggles down, and zipped up. He was ready to go and somebody had to remind him. Yaro, we have a 30 minute drive until we get to the fire.”

Katkov is survived by his mother, father, and brother.

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