The helicopter pilot killed while fighting fires this week in the Mount Hood National Forest has been named as Tom Duffy. In California, pilot Michael Fournier died fighting fires in Western Fresno County. Duffy was working for a Montana-based private aerial firefighting company that was contracted by the US Forest Service when the helicopter he was flying, a Type 1 Kmax, crashed. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating the cause of the accident. Suzanne Flory, a spokeswoman for the US Forest service said: “The firefighting community is heartbroken to learn of this tragic loss, and our condolences go out to the pilot’s family, friends and co-workers.” She explained that Duffy had been conducting bucket drops in rough terrain at the time of the accident.
Fournier was working for Guardian Helicopters, a private firm contracted by Cal Fire. He was the sole pilot onboard the Bell UH-1H helicopter that crashed around nine miles south of Caolinga while fighting a wildfire known as the Hills Fire. The NTSB is investigating the cause of the crash.
California blazes prompt warnings
Meanwhile in California, huge wildfires are continuing to spread throughout the state, where seven people have died as a result of the fires. Hundreds of thousands of people have been told to evacuate the San Francisco Bay area, and President Donald Trump has declared a major disaster in the state. Despite firefighting efforts taking place for over a week in the final days of August, the fires remained just 17 per cent contained, and with more ‘rain free’ thunderstorms forecast, there is little hope for relief.
“All of our resources remain stretched to capacity that we have not seen in recent history,” said Shana Jones, the Chief for Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit. On 24 August, Cal Fire reported: “Currently, more than 14,000 firefighters are battling over two dozen major fires and lightning complexes across California. Weather conditions overnight were more favorable, yet there were over 200 lightning strikes across California. Firefighters continue to monitor for additional lightning strike wildfires and the potential for additional lightning today.”