Firefighting plane crashes in NW Colorado
MEEKER, Colorado ” A firefighting plane battling one of many lightning-caused fires in northwestern Colorado crashed Wednesday, injuring the pilot.
The single-engine air tanker went down at 3 p.m. about 20 miles northwest of Meeker, or 170 miles northwest of Denver.
Bureau of Land Management spokesman David Boyd said the pilot was conscious and able to move. He was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Junction. The pilot’s name was not released.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, Boyd said.
The pilot was working on a small blaze called the Flat Bush fire that was reported Wednesday morning and was burning in pinyon-juniper and sage on BLM land.
It was one of more than 30 lightning-caused fires in northwestern Colorado, the BLM said. Most were estimated at less than an acre in size. There have been no reports of damage to the 30 gas wells in the area.
The largest is the 27,000-acre Mayberry fire on BLM and private land about 30 miles northwest of Craig. More than 75 firefighters had contained about 50 percent of the blaze, the agency said.
The Prong fire, about 20 miles northwest of Craig, jumped containment lines Tuesday night and grew to 5,150 acres. Firefighters stopped its growth and were working to secure fire lines Wednesday afternoon, the BLM said.
The Lone fire, burning on BLM and private land about 15 miles north of Elk Springs in Moffat County, was about 75 percent contained. It charred 950 acres.
Crews from Maybell, Meeker, Moffat County, the Colorado State Forest Service, the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service were working together to manage the fires.
Wednesday’s crash was the second wreck of a firefighting plane in Colorado this year.
In April, firefighting pilot Gert Marais of Fort Benton, Mont., was killed when his single-engine plane crashed after dumping fire-retardant slurry on a wildfire in a remote part of Fort Carson. Marais worked for a Sterling company that supplies aerial firefighting services to the state Forest Service.