FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The pilot died on Tuesday night when A single-engine aircraft equipped with special firefighting equipment crashed While working, the Kruger Rock Fire told his ground crew that the air was turbulent and he would pass again before heading back to the airport, authorities said.
Veteran pilot Marc Thor Olson never returned with that ground crew, and shortly after his last contact heard Olson’s plane crash over the final pass southeast of the Park. Estes.
The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, which requested the pilot’s help in fighting the fire, released those details and more Wednesday afternoon.
“About an hour later, the plane returned to the fire and the pilot told ground resources that the fire was turbulent, conditions were not ideal for making the drop and he was going to do it again. then back to Loveland,” the sheriff’s office said, according to Denver Post.
The sheriff’s office reached out to Fort Morgan-based CO Fire Airlines to see if they would send planes to battle the blaze as strong winds prevented air and ground support. The steep slope prevented firefighters from working on the ground.
The company says it already has pilots and planes available. The flight is believed to be the first time a pilot in Colorado has used a fixed-wing aircraft to fight a fire.
The sheriff’s office and CO Fire Aviation discussed fire behavior and weather, including high winds and gusts, according to the statement. Hours later, the company said it was checking the weather and airflow patterns at the fire and felt comfortable doing the reductions.
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According to FlightAware, Air Tractor AT-802 departs Fort Morgan Municipal Airport at 3:30 pm. The sheriff’s office said it was filled with water and headed for the fire.
Olson successfully dropped a pile of water on the fire, and the pilot reported that the wind “wasn’t too bad on the fire .”“ and said that he was going to Loveland to get some suppressant to do the second hit. He arrived at Loveland Airport at 4:38 p.m., according to FlightAware.
He was on his second trip to the fire at 6:10 p.m. On returning to the fire, Olson told ground resources that the fire was turbulent, conditions were not ideal for making a fall, and he He will pass again before coming back.
At about 6:37 p.m., ground resources heard the plane crash. Immediately, a search began to find the wreckage, located about a mile from the fire.
The sheriff’s office said Olson’s body was recovered from the wreckage Wednesday morning and that the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were at the scene of the crash to begin an investigation. their check.
CO Fire Aviation said in a Facebook post that the company is cooperating fully with the appropriate authorities and partners in the investigation, and that the company is “deeply aware of the inherent dangers of aerial firefighting and the questions that remain.” exist. ”
The sheriff’s office has begun negotiations with CO Fire Aviation about its services in May after a protest at Loveland Airport demonstrated the fire fighting ability of aircraft and pilots at night using skilled pilots with night vision goggles.
The sheriff’s office signed a verbal contract “as needed” with the company on October 5. A written contract is still being negotiated, according to the release. The company signed a five-year contract with the state of Colorado for the service.
The Kruger Rock Fire is the first time the sheriff’s office has used CO Fire Aviation’s services.
The sheriff’s office has contacted the company about its services in other fires this year, but the company either has no available or no need for air operations for those fires.
The sheriff’s office said it sought company services, including nighttime aviation operations after last year’s nearly 209,000-acre Cameron Peak Fire became the largest fire in state history and in which a number of large fires destroyed structures.
It said recent advances in technology to achieve nighttime air operations have already been used in other states that have proven to be an effective tactic to help contain the outbreak of medium-sized fires.