Pilot killed as helicopter crashes fighting wildfire near Mt. Hood

A helicopter pilot fighting a wildfire near Mt. Hood died Monday when the chopper crashed during a mission, Forest Service officials said.

The helicopter was a Type 1 Kmax conducting bucket drops on the White River Fire to help battle the blaze, which was burning in rough terrain, said Suzanne Flory, Acting Director of Communications, Northwest Region, USDA Forest Service.

The pilot was the only individual on board of the aircraft at the time of the crash. The helicopter was a private contractor aircraft operating under a Call When Needed agreement with federal agencies.

Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and USDA Forest Service responded immediately to the crash by sending air and ground resources to the scene. The crash site is in rugged terrain, and the safety of first responders is our priority at this time.

“Yesterday, we lost a member of our firefighting family in a tragic helicopter crash,” said Glenn Casamassa, Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service. “We convey our deepest sympathy to the family, incident management team, firefighters, friends and emergency responders involved.

“The courage to selflessly protect lives and property are respected and admired.

“Their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten. Firefighting is dangerous work and risk is well known to those who fight the flames. We honor, we remember, we support the families and their loved ones. We affirm that we are a community and that the family is part of the firefighting family as well.”

There will be an investigation into the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified, Flory said.

The White River Fire, located is 13 miles SW of Government Camp in the White River drainage near Forest Road 48, is currently 1,289 acres and 15 % containment.

There are 354 personnel engaged in the firefighting efforts.  Level 1 evacuations are in effect for Sportmans Park, which is approximately 8 miles east of the fire.

Three additional Type 1 helicopters, including another K-MAX, and one Type 3 helicopter are still actively supporting suppression efforts on the fire.

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