OREGON — On August 24, a pilot flying a Type 1 K-MAX helicopter on the White River Fire on Mt. Hood National Forest was killed while conducting bucket drops to help battle the blaze.
The pilot was the only individual on board of the aircraft at the time of the crash. The helicopter was a private contractor aircraft operating under a Call When Needed agreement with federal agencies.
Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and USDA Forest Service responded immediately to the crash by sending air and ground resources to the scene. The crash site is in rugged terrain, and the safety of first responders is our priority at this time.
“Yesterday, we lost a member of our firefighting family in a tragic helicopter crash,” said Glenn Casamassa, Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service. “We convey our deepest sympathy to the family, incident management team, firefighters, friends and emergency responders involved. The courage to selflessly protect lives and property are respected and admired. Their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten. Firefighting is dangerous work and risk is well known to those who fight the flames. We honor, we remember, we support the families and their loved ones. We affirm that we are a community and that the family is part of the firefighting family as well.”
A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect to protect firefighter safety, so we are reminding people that it is critical not to fly in the vicinity of White River Fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and the USDA Forest Service will be working with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate further. As official reports become available, we will share more information.
The U.S. Forest Service is working with the family on notifications and ask the media to respect their privacy during their time of bereavement.
“We don’t ever forget those people that are protecting our public lands and are on the front lines for us and our local communities,” said Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill.
A Critical Incident Stress Management team will be assisting firefighters working on the incident.
The White River Fire, located is 13 miles SW of Government Camp in the White River drainage near Forest Road 48, is currently 1,289 acres and 15 % containment. There are 354 personnel engaged in the firefighting efforts. Level 1 evacuations are in effect for Sportmans Park, which is approximately 8 miles east of the fire. Three additional Type 1 helicopters, including another K-MAX, and one Type 3 helicopter are still actively supporting suppression efforts on the fire.
While air resources such as these helicopters may be assigned to help with a specific fire, they are managed as an interagency pool that are flexible and responsive, often assisting with other fires when the opportunity and need arises.
Please respect area, road, recreation site, and trail closures surrounding the White River Fire which are in place to protect the safety of the public, firefighters, and first responders.