WICKIEUP, Ariz. — Officials confirmed Sunday that a retired Northwest Fire Department fire chief and a pilot were killed after an aircraft crashed while battling the Cedar Basin Fire in Mohave County, Arizona.
The Bureau of Land Management confirmed that retired fire chief Jeff Piechura, 62, and Pilot Matthew Miller, 48, were the two onboard the plane when the crash happened.
In a statement, the Bureau of Land Management says the crash occurred around 12 p.m. while crews were performing an air attack over the fire 14 miles east of Wikieup.
Chief Piechura is, in large part, responsible for making this agency what it is today, along with an impact across many communities.— Northwest Fire (@NorthwestFire) July 11, 2021
Formal press release to follow. pic.twitter.com/rOX12Xvo7u
Miller was a fire pilot contracted by the U.S. Forest Service, and Piechura was working as an Air Tactical Group Supervisor with the Coronado National Forest.
“Our hearts and most sincere condolences are with the families, friends and colleagues of both individuals lost in this tragic accident," said BLM Arizona State Director Raymond Suazo. "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, communities and natural resources.”
The Department of Interior Office of Aviation Services, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Federal Aviation Administration will be handling the investigation.
It’s been a tough day for our wildland fire community. Our deepest condolences to the families of these two crew members. #AZFire #AZForestry https://t.co/bGaUORqqHA— AZ State Forestry (@azstateforestry) July 11, 2021
This story was originally published by Cydeni Carter at KNXV.