July 7, 1997 in Nation/World

Helicopter Pilot Killed While Fighting Wildfire

Compiled From Wire Services

A water-dropping helicopter crashed while fighting a wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest on Sunday, killing the pilot and prompting fire officials to suspend air support.

As 400 firefighters continued to fight the 2,411-acre blaze on the ground, news of the crash led officials to ground 10 air tankers.

“We have suspended air operations until we can get rescue and search operations (to the site),” said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Debby Hyde-Sato.

The helicopter crashed in a remote area with only the pilot on board. The cause was not known immediately.

Strong winds and high temperatures aggravated efforts to stop fire.

Carey Thomas Meeks, 27, was arrested and booked for investigation of unlawfully starting a fire. The blaze was sparked by illegal fireworks.

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