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Incident Name: Humboldt Fire
Date: 06/17/08 
Personnel: Kevin Pryor
Age: 31
Agency/Organization: Newport Beach Fire Department
Position: Firefighter

Summary: Kevin Pryor, of the Newport Beach Fire Department, had returned Sunday (6/15) from his participation in a strike team at the Humboldt Fire (BTU) in northern California. A friend found Pryor at home on Monday (6/16) and called 911. Firefighter Pryor was rushed to the hospital, where he died early Tuesday (6/17) morning, surrounded by family and fellow firefighters. He suffered a non-traumatic brain hemorrhage (aneurysm).

Kevin Pryor Kevin Pryor

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Newport Beach CA Fire Station #1

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  • KEVIN PRYOR:1976-2008:‘He was a role model’

    6/17/2008 | Online Article

    Firefighter Kevin Pryor, a three-year veteran with the Newport Fire Department, dies after suffering a brain aneurysm at Irvine home on Monday.
    By Joseph Serna
    Updated: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 10:50 PM PDT

    Some say the worst day for firefighters is when they lose one of their own.

    Tuesday morning, firefighters in Newport Beach and beyond experienced just that as news of Kevin Pryor’s death spread.

    Pryor, a three-year veteran of the Newport Beach Fire Department, died in a hospital after suffering a sudden, catastrophic brain aneurysm the night before. He was 31.

    “All of us are extremely saddened. Most of us are still in a state of shock,” said Deputy Chief Dave Mais. “Suddenly, we were completely surprised, mainly due to his youth and the fact he was in incredible shape. He had no problems before this happened, physically.”

    Pryor was at his Irvine home with a friend Monday afternoon when he suffered the aneurysm, officials said.

    He had returned a day earlier with an Orange County strike team in Northern California battling the Humboldt Fire, officials said. He didn’t complain about any pain or discomfort leading up to his death, Mais said.

    Pryor was put on life support as soon as he arrived at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, officials said. He was pronounced dead at 7 a.m. Tuesday.

    Family and his firefighting friends, in full uniform, stood watch outside the intensive care unit up to Tuesday night, Mais said. That’s when surgeons were expected to come recover his organs for donation, per Pryor’s wishes.

    Pryor stood out from the moment he became a firefighter. He began his career with the Pismo Beach Fire Department in 1999, where he was named Rookie Firefighter of the Year and then 2002’s Firefighter of the Year.

    In 2003, he joined the California Firefighter Academy in Riverside County, where he was named that year’s valedictorian. On June 25, 2005, he joined the Newport Beach force.

    “He was a very popular person with all of our firefighters. He was known for his wisdom, his work ethic,” Mais said. “He was a role model even though he had only been in the department for three years.”

    Officials say he was notorious for his sense of humor and impressions. He loved history and the outdoors, officials said. He reached the summit of Mount Whitney for the second time earlier this year.

    Despite his youth and physical health, doctors say there’s little chance anyone could have seen this coming.

    “It’s pretty unpredictable,” John Weiss, a UCI professor of neurology, said. “[Aneurysms] are not exactly age independent.”

    A brain aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel near the base of the brain swells, Weiss said. It turns potentially fatal when it bleeds or bursts. Chronic high blood pressure can lead to an aneurysm, but in people who appear healthy such as Pryor, often a “defect,” such as a thin blood vessel wall, can be the cause, he said.

    Doctors can only detect defective blood vessels if they scan the area, a very time-consuming, expensive procedure, Weiss said. Generally people would find out about it only if their brain were scanned for another reason, he said.

    “It’s not all that rare that it presents an instant, fatal event,” said Steven C. Cramer, director of UCI’s Stroke Center. “Much more research is needed to understand [them].”

    Pryor is survived by his mother, Margaret; father, Mark; and brother, Eric. Services will likely be held near where he grew up in Ventura County next week, officials said.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • More info from the Newport Beach Fire Department: Kevin Pryor
  • Newport Beach Fire Department: Announcement of Services (91 K pdf)
  • Newport Beach Fire Department: Announcement of Organ Donation (88 K pdf)
  • Local fire departments paid tribute to Firefighter Pryor Wednesday (6/18) as his body was transported home to Westlake Village, Calif., by lining the route and displaying apparatus. Firefighter Pryor was named Rookie Firefighter of the Year in 1999 and Firefighter of the Year by the Pismo Beach Fire Department, where he worked until 2003.

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Contributors to this article: wakesession, Scott Roberts, Mod-Spruce

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