PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A firefighting helicopter pilot working for a Bozeman, Montana company died in a crash while battling the White River Fire near Mount Hood.
Deputies say the Type 1 Kmax helicopter was conducting bucket drops to help battle the blaze. There will be an accident investigation and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been alerted.
Montana Senator Steve Daines identified the pilot as Tom Duffy of Bozeman.
“I am saddened to hear about the passing of Bozeman’s very own Tom Duffy,” Daines said. “Tom Duffy tragically passed fighting the fires at Mt. Hood National Forest in service of the people of Oregon. Cindy and I offer our prayers to Tom’s family and loved ones.”
In a post announcing the death, the WCSO 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.”
John Giller, the Director for Fire, Fuels and Aviation Director for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region, said there are 10 large fires in the Pacific Northwest. The White River Fire is a challenge to contain and is currently the Number 2 priority fire in the Northwest.
Francis Tyler with Pacific Northwest Team 9 is managing the White River Fire. Tyler said they’re using the White River itself as the southern containment line. Along the east they’re using roads and Highway 48 on the north end. Handlines are helping to contain the fire on the west.
Aircraft are being used to make sure the fire doesn’t jump the river. At this time there are no fire crews assigned on the other side of the White River.
The fire is currently 15% contained and is nearly 1300 acres in size. Officials say it’s been fueled by gusty winds. There are a number of trails and roads closed in the area.