Helicopter pilot dies while fighting Klamath wildfire | PostIndependent.com

Helicopter pilot dies while fighting Klamath wildfire

YREKA, Calif. (AP) ” Investigators were trying to determine Tuesday what caused the fatal crash of a helicopter delivering water to firefighters in the Klamath National Forest.

The dead pilot was identified as Dennis Luster Davis, 61, from Boise, Idaho. Davis crashed Monday morning in a “heavily wooded mountainous area with very steep and rugged terrain” while assisting firefighters battling a blaze in the Happy Camp area near the Oregon border, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department.

The helicopter was under contract with the U.S. Forest Service from a company called Idaho Helicopters Inc., based in Boise.

Forest Service investigators on Tuesday were examining the site about 12 miles southeast of Happy Camp where the plane crashed while carrying a large water container to refill hand-pump backpacks for firefighters on the ground battling a massive wildfire.

Some firefighters saw the helicopter crash and reported it to emergency dispatchers. Davis was the only person on board.

More than 1,100 fire crews were battling the cluster of lightning-sparked fires dubbed the Elk Complex, which hyave so far burned more than 14 square miles in a remote region just south of the Oregon border. One of the nearest cities is Medford, Ore., about 75 miles north.

The fires, which started July 10, had threatened up to 550 homes near the town of Happy Camp, but none has been destroyed.

About 28 percent of the fire was surrounded Tuesday.

Nearly 700 miles to the south, gentle winds and damp air helped firefighters keep the nearly 3-week-old blaze in the Los Padres National Forest from growing on Monday, fire spokesman Eric Neipzeo said.

The blaze held at about 48 square miles since the previous night and was 60 percent surrounded by Monday evening, a day after officials lifted the last of their evacuation warnings in northern Santa Barbara County. Officials expected full containment Aug. 3.

The fire was ignited July 4 by sparks from grinding equipment used to repair a water pipe outside the forest borders.

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