Two Firefighters Dead After Plane Crashes While Monitoring Arizona Wildfire

Fire consumes a home as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, tears through Doyle, Calif., on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (NOAH BERGER / AP)

Two firefighters died Saturday after a aircraft they were in to respond to a wildfire crashed in Mohave County, Arizona, officials said. The Arizona Bureau of Land Management told CBS affiliate KPHO-TV that the aircraft helping perform aerial reconnaissance and command and control over the Cedar Basin Fire burning near Wikieup, a tiny community of about 100, crashed around noon.

Bureau officials confirmed that a retired fire chief, Jeff Piechura, was one of the people who died, KPHO reported.

“Our hearts are heavy tonight with sincere condolences to families, loved ones and firefighters affected by this tragic aviation accident that occurred today in Arizona on the #CedarBasinFire,” the BLM tweeted Saturday night.

The plane performing aerial reconnaissance helps direct aviation resources responding to a wildfire, said Dolores Garcia, a spokesperson for the bureau, told the Arizona Republic.

Garcia said these firefighters are one of the earliest personnel responding to a wildfire.

The lightning-caused Cedar Basin Fire has burned 300 acres. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

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SOURCE: CBS News, The Associated Press

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