Death rocks Newport Beach firefighters
Kevin Pryor, 31, died of brain aneurysm shortly after battling Northern California blaze.
NEWPORT BEACH – A young Newport Beach firefighter died Tuesday of a brain aneurysm, barely one day after he returned from duty fighting Northern California wildfires, officials said.
Kevin Pryor, 31, came home Sunday night after being deployed to battle the Humboldt fire. A friend found him unconscious at his Irvine home about noon Monday and called paramedics, who took Pryor to Western Medical Center-Santa Ana.
Pryor was placed on life support and died at 7 a.m. Tuesday with family members, friends and firefighters at his bed.
Authorities are looking into whether the death is related to Pryor's deployment along the fire lines, said David Mais, Newport Beach's deputy fire chief.
"We are still all shocked and incredibly saddened for Kevin's family," Mais said. "We consider ourselves family too in the Fire Department. All of our guys and ladies are completely devastated by the news."
Accolades piled up quickly for Pryor after he joined the Pismo Beach Fire Department in 1999. He snagged Rookie Firefighter of the Year honors and, three years later, was named Firefighter of the Year.
When the up-and-coming firefighter left the department to join California Fire in Riverside County, he was honored as valedictorian of his 2003 academy class.
Pryor joined the Newport Beach Fire Department in 2005, where his reputation continued to shine as a skilled firefighter and an instructor for the Community Emergency Response Team. "He definitely knew the fire business," Mais said.
Outside of professional success, Pryor was known as both an academic with encyclopedic knowledge of history and as an athlete who played college baseball and twice climbed Mount Whitney.
And he was witty, too, drawing laughter in the firehouse with his spot-on impressions of colleagues.
"He did them not in a mean way, but in a respectful way, just to have fun and entertain people, which he was very good at," Mais said. "In the fire department, it's always good to have somebody like that because we are involved in a lot of serious things and it's good to have somebody provide comic relief at times."
Pryor is survived by his mother, Margaret, his father, Mark and his brother, Eric. Memorial services have not been announced.