Recon and command plane down while working the Cedar Basin Fire
11 July 2021
WIKIEUP, Arizona – A pilot and firefighter were killed on Saturday, 10 July, in a plane crash while working on the Cedar Basin Fire in Arizona.
The Bureau of Land Management Arizona said that the plane, a Beechcraft King Air C90, was flying as the Air Attack Platform, performing reconnaissance and aerial command and coordination.
Only two people were on the plane, the pilot and a Air Tactical Group Supervisor. The supervisor is responsible for managing the airspace and coordinating aircraft operations over an incident.
The victims have been identified as Pilot Matthew Miller and ATGS Jeff Piechura.
Miller, 48, was an employee of Falcon Executive Aviation, Inc. and contracted by the United States Forest Service.
Piechura, 62, was a retired fire chief from the Northwest Fire Department near Tucson.
The crash occurred at approximately 12:00 p.m. Sunday. A witness told The Arizona Republic that they saw the plane go down at an angle not usually seen before.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Department of Interior Office and Aviation Services and the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the crash.
The Cedar Basin Fire began after thunderstorms on the evening of 9 July. Helicopter reconnaissance located the fire on 10 July and by the end of the day the fire had grown to approximately 300 acres.
The wildfire is located 14 miles east of Wikieup and 20 miles northwest of Bagdad.
InciWeb’s latest update on Sunday listed the fire at a size of 714 acres, burning in grass and brush, and being fought by at least 45 personnel.
To date only four on-duty deaths involved the wildland/WUI area. The latest occurred on 24 May and involved a smokejumper who suffered a hard fall at a New Mexico wildfire.
The victim succumbed to his injuries on 2 June.
The other three fatalities involve exposure to COVID-19, a medical emergency during a fire, and a vehicle rollover during a prescribed burn.
Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.
Picture shows the type of aircraft and not the actual aircraft in the incident.
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