Helicopter pilot killed fighting Wash. wildfire
Randall Harmon, 44, of Grants Pass, Ore., was the only one on board the Kaman K-1200 when it went down Friday while dropping water on the McGinnis Flats fire near this town in northeastern Washington.
"We're a small company and it really hits home," said Andy Mills, marketing director for Superior Helicopter LLC, based in Grants Pass, Ore.
The National Transportation Safety Board was leading the crash investigation. Two Superior Helicopter representatives were sent to the crash site Saturday to assist NTSB investigators, Mills said.
"We have no indications whatsoever what happened," Mills said. "Whatever happened happened quickly. That's all we know."
Harmon was the first person killed fighting wildfires in Washington state this year. His death came five days after two helitack firefighters in Idaho were killed while battling a blaze in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
Jeff Allen, 24 and Shane Heath, died Tuesday when a fire exploded around them as they were trying to prepare a helicopter landing site at the Cramer fire, about 22 miles west of North Fork, Idaho.
The helicopter Harmon was flying was a multipurpose aircraft that could carry suspended loads and is used for firefighting, forestry and logging.
Mills said Superior Helicopter's main concern was the well-being of Harmon's family. "We're trying to do our best to support them right now," he said.
Firefighters were "widening existing roads and trails to create a defensible space should the fire leave the wilderness," List said.
Their goal: to prevent the fire from burning trees on state trust lands where logging proceeds are used to build public schools. Timber sales from the forest east of Loomis in northern Okanogan County produce about $2.25 million a year for the state's school construction fund.
The closest edge of the Farewell Creek fire was about 5 miles west of the 134,000-acre forest.
The fire grew by less than 10 acres overnight and was about 35 percent contained Saturday, fire officials said.
The fire was started by lightning June 29 and has cost nearly $21 million to fight so far. It's burning in roadless wilderness where motorized vehicles are prohibited and is being fought by helicopters dropping water and retardant chemicals.
Ground forces are stationed on the wilderness perimeter, hoping to keep the flames inside. Fire managers have predicted it could reach 190,000 acres and continue to burn until the heavy rains, or early snows, of the fall. They say it could cost $69 million to fight.
Two other fires in other parts of the state were fully contained on Friday: a 25,000-acre fire on the U.S. Army's Yakima Training Center, and the 1,064-acre Watt Road fire southwest of Cheney, near Spokane.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]