BOISE – Authorities say a firefighter died after his single-engine air tanker crashed while he was fighting a small fire in southwestern Idaho Tuesday evening.
The Bureau of Land Management identified the firefighter Wednesday as pilot Ricky Fulton. He was flying a T-857 aircraft owned by Aero S.E.A.T. Incorporated. The company was on an on-call contract with the BLM’s Fire and Aviation division at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Tanker planes are used to drop fire retardant on wildfires.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer said the crash happened around 6:30 p.m. According to the FAA’s preliminary report, the aircraft crashed in a ravine “under unknown circumstances.” Fire crews were still making an initial attack on the blaze about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) southeast of Emmett when the plane went down. Fulton was the only person on board, and no one else was injured in the crash.
Firefighters gave Fulton medical aid and called for an air ambulance, but Fulton didn’t survive his injuries.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the pilot lost in this tragic accident,” said acting BLM Boise District Manager Tanya Thrift in a statement. “This reminds us of the inherent risks involved in wildland firefighting and the gratitude we owe to the courageous and committed men and women who serve willingly to protect lives, property and natural resources.”
Idaho Gov. Brad Little called Fulton’s death tragic in a statement issued Wednesday, and called for Idaho and American flags to be flown at half-mast across the state in the firefighter’s honor. He said Fulton died while protecting others.
“Our hearts are heavy. The death of a firefighter is felt deeply and emotionally in the firefighting community,” Little said. “Pray for comfort for the pilot’s family and colleagues, and please do your part to prevent needless wildfires.”
The Schill fire started Tuesday afternoon in brush and steep terrain. It was contained later that night after it burned about 30 acres. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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