THE DALLES, Ore. (AP) — A helicopter pilot who died late Monday while fighting a wildfire in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest worked for a private company based in Bozeman, Montana that was under contract for aerial firefighting with the U.S. Forest Service, authorities said Tuesday.
“This kind of news is never easy,” said Suzanne Flory, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service. “We have very limited information at this time but an investigation has started and it is ongoing.”
Authorities declined to release the name of the man because authorities were still notifying his family, but the pilot had been doing bucket drops on the fire for several days with a Type 1 Kmax helicopter before the crash, said Brian Goff, the Forest Service incident commander for the White River Fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.
The White River Fire is currently 15% contained and is a little more than 1,200 acres (485 hectares) in size. It’s been fueled by gusty winds and is burning in steep, densely forested terrain about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Portland.
It’s one of 10 major wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest and is currently the No. 2 priority for fire crews in the region.
About 5,000 of the 28,000 firefighters deployed on wildfires nationwide are on blazes in the Pacific Northwest, said John Giller, with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest region.