A pilot died in a helicopter crash while battling the White River Fire in the Mount Hood National Forest.
The crash happened late Monday, Aug. 24, while the pilot was releasing buckets of water from a K-MAX helicopter over steep, rugged terrain.
The Wasco County Sheriff's Office has announced the pilot was a man working for a private company out of Bozeman, Mont., that was contracted to help firefighting efforts. However, the U.S. Forest Service has not yet released the individual's name, citing the need for the victim's family to notify other relatives.
The sheriff's office and U.S. Forest Service air and ground crews responded immediately to the crash site. An investigation into the cause is underway, and both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified.
"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," the U.S. Forest Service stated in a press release.
The White River Fire has charred nearly 1,300 acres of land about 20 miles west of the town of Wamic, which is 40 minutes south of The Dalles. It is currently 15% contained and, of the 10 large fires burning in the Pacific Northwest, the No. 2 priority, with 54 people currently assigned to fight it.
Even though this blaze was sparked by lightning, Mount Hood National Forest rangers want to remind the public that all open fires are currently prohibited in those lands, including camp, charcoal and pellet fires. If you have camping plans, you can still use portable cooking stoves and lanterns that take liquefied or bottled fuel, like propane.