CAL FIRE Helicopter Crashes During Water Drop, Pilot Killed

By , KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

A pilot fighting wildfires has died after his helicopter crashed in central California.

It happened around 10 a.m. Wednesday near Coalinga in Fresno County.

The pilot was the only person on board. CAL FIRE said the helicopter was making water drops and crashed in a remote area.

"These are helicopters that are very common in firefighting, but for reasons yet to be determined and are under investigation, that helicopter did crash," CAL FIRE Chief of Wildfire Planning and Engineering and Investigations Daniel Berlant told KCBS Radio’s Dan Mitchinson and Margie Shafer.

The FAA and NTSB will investigate the incident.

"(It’s) a tragic reminder of how dangerous these fires can be," Berlant said.

The pilot was assisting in the Hills Fire, which started Saturday. It's burned 1,500 acres and is 35% contained.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday blamed the extraordinary weather and thousands of lightning strikes for 367 known fires, including 23 major fires or groups of fires. He said the state has recorded nearly 11,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours.

"This is really a historic lightning siege," Berlant added. "We have not seen this type of activity in decades."

The helicopter crash actually started another fire, which has since been put out.

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