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Air tanker crashes fighting Colorado wildfire, kills pilot

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A single-engine air tanker crashed while fighting a wildfire in northern Colorado, killing the pilot, local authorities announced.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office said the plane crashed Tuesday evening south of Estes Park.

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"At approximately 9:49 p.m., the plane crash site was located near the south end of Hermit Park," a statement from the sheriff's office said. "We are sad to report that the pilot and only occupant of the aircraft did not survive."

Colorado Fire Aviation Inc. identified the pilot as Marc Thor Olson.

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"The Co Fire Aviation family is deeply saddened by the sudden, tragic loss of one of our brothers serving as a tanker pilot," the organization said in a statement posted to Facebook. "Marc Thor Olson was a highly decorated veteran of both the Army and Air Force with 32 years of service to our country."

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the cause of the crash.

The air tanker was helping to put out the Kruger Rock Fire, which broke out Tuesday morning south of Estes Park and east of Rocky Mountain National Park.

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As of Wednesday afternoon, the blaze had grown to 140 acres and was 15% contained.

"With public and firefighter safety a priority, we plan to take advantage of cooler [temperatures] and lighter winds today," the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.

The sheriff's department eased some mandatory evacuation orders for areas along the east side of Highway 36. Officials also reopened the highway between Estes Park and Lyons to the south.

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