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Helicopter pilot killed in crash fighting fires in Oregon

Helicopter pilot killed in crash fighting fires in Oregon
White River Fire, located on Mt. Hood National Forest, has grown to 1,289 acres and is 15% contained. White Photo courtesy Mt. Hood National Forest/Twitter

Aug. 25 (UPI) -- A pilot fightiging a wildfire on Mt. Hood National Forest outside Portland was killed Monday when their helicopter crashed, authorities said Tuesday.

The pilot was the lone occupant of Type 1 K-Mak helicopter that was conducting bucket drops on White River Fire, the Wasco County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. The pilot's identity was not released.

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"Yesterday, we lost a member of our firefighting family in a tragic helicopter crash," Gleen Casamassa, regional forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service, said in a statement. "We convey our deepest sympathy to the family, incident management team, firefighters, friends and emergency responders involved."

Agents with the Wasco County Sheriff's Office and the USDA Forest Service immediately deployed air and ground resources to the crash site, which the sheriff's office described as "rugged terrain."

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"The safety of first responders is our priority at this time," the statement said.

The helicopter was a private contractor aircraft operated under the so-called Call When Needed agreement with federal agencies, Wasco County Sheriff's Office said. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and the USDA Forest Service will be investigating the crash with the NTSB.

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Located about 90 miles east of Portland, the White River Fire has grown to 1,289 acres and is 15% contained.

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Ninty-three large fires have burned more than 1.8 million acres across the country with Arizona, California and Arizona reporting the largest of the fires, according to the National Interagency Fire Center on Twitter.

Officials with Cal Fire said some 1.25 million acres have burned in the state since Aug. 15.

"We are grateful to the over 14,000 firefighters that continue to battle these intense wildfires," Cal Fire said on Twitter.

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Blazes in California have killed at least seven people, including a helicopter pilot who died last week when his aircraft crashed on a water-bombing mission in Fresno County.

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