Wildland firefighters killed in Arizona plane crash

File photo: Gephardt Daily

MOHAVE COUNTY, Arizona, July 11, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Two wildland firefighters are dead after a plane coordinating the air assault against an Arizona wildfire crashed Saturday.

The plane was fighting the 300 acre Cedar Basin Fire in Northwestern Arizona when it went down.

The Bureau of Land Management issued a statement that reads “The accident occurred around noon today (July 10) and involved an air attack aircraft performing aerial reconnaissance and command and control over the fire. Two crew members were on board and we are sad to report there were no survivors.

‘We will provide additional information pending next of kin notification. Our hearts go out to the families of our brave wildland firefighters.”

The BLM later said the crash involved an “air attack” platform which includes the plane, fire pilot and an air tactical group supervisor (ATGS).

This was the second wildland firefighting aircraft to crash in the western U.S. in less than a week.

Last Wednesday, July 7, a helicopter pilot helping fight a wildfire in northern California made an emergency landing in a lake.  The pilot managed to swim and walk away unharmed.  The helicopter sank.

In late June, a helicopter helping fight a massive outbreak of wildfires in Canada crashed, killing one person. While the helicopter was being used to fly crews to the fire, the pilot was the only one onboard at the time.

The online publication “Fire Aviation” reports that investigators have already traced to the reason to a defective part.  The report goes on to say that Canada has grounded a large number of the transport helicopters at a time when hundreds of wildfires are burning in the western province of British Columbia alone.

And in May, four people were killed when a firefighting Blackhawk helicopter crashed during a training exercise in Florida.  A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board says a hose used to pick up water was whipped back and forth violently, likely hitting the rotor blades and causing the helicopter to break apart in the air

While there is no word on what may have caused Saturday’s crash, fire meteorologists say heavy “outflow winds from area thunderstorms caused strong, gusty and erratic winds which challenged the firefighting effort.”

Eight years ago, those same kind of storm-generated outflow winds changed the direction of the Yarnell Hill Fire near Prescott, Arizona and sent a hundred foot wall of flames straight at an entire shift of firefighters. 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in what was the greatest loss of firefighters in a single incident since the 9/11 terror attacks.


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