Colorado Air Tanker Crash: Pilot Dies Fighting Wildfires

by Shelby Scott
(Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Amid the latest wildfire to break out in the Western United States, a pilot tragically died in a crash during efforts to help extinguish the blaze. The pilot died performing a historic feat upon a fixed-wing craft, joining efforts to fight the ongoing Kruger Rock Fire.

According to The U.S. Sun, reports of the crash initially came in at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, with law enforcement officers from Larimer County, CO soon deployed.

Sadly, it took several hours for authorities to locate the crash site as the wildfire raged. Reports state the pilot and his plane were located around 9:49 p.m. Upon discovering the site, authorities said, “We are sad to report that the pilot and only occupant of the aircraft did not survive.”

Further, the outlet reported the craft’s final location came at 6:36 p.m., not long after its takeoff at 6:13 p.m.

As to the pilot and the craft’s historic feat, The U.S. Sun states it was the first time a fixed-wing aircraft was intended to fight a wildfire at night. The pilot had reportedly been using night vision goggles. And as to the aircraft’s capabilities, identified as an Air Tractor Flight Boss, the plane could drop 800 gallons of water on a fire per flight. Additionally, it could drop up to 14,000 gallons of water per hour.

Making matters worse, prior to takeoff, the pilot shared with outlets, “[This is a p]retty cool thing to be a part of, I think. This is the culmination of about five years of pretty hard work.”

Colorado Wildfire Remains Only 15% Contained

Unfortunately for crews fighting CO’s ongoing Kruger Rock wildfire, their efforts have only begun. Following the demise of the Flight Boss pilot Tuesday, firefighters are down one set of hands. And as we’ve seen this year, extra sets of hands and help are crucial as wildfires only worsen.

The pilot had been a part of the battle, with ground crews working to contain the Kruger Rock Wildfire. According to The U.S. Sun, the latest CO wildfire broke out early Tuesday, reports initially beginning around 7 a.m. Larimer County authorities stated the cause of the wildfire came as high winds blew a tree onto a nearby power line.

As expected dozens of crews responded to the scene, with Outsiders across the country hoping to see this year’s wildfire season finally come to an end.

Per the outlet, fire crews were to monitor the wildfire overnight, continued to work into Wednesday morning. At the time, the fire saw only 15% containment. Since the initial breakout, nearby communities began to evacuate. However, fortunately, as of the Tuesday evening report, no structures saw damage yet.

So, while CO fire crews endeavor to put out the latest wildfire, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate the pilot’s crash.