Pilot who died in helicopter crash fighting Oregon fire identified as Bozeman man

BOZEMAN- U.S. Senator Steve Daines on Tuesday issued the following statement after learning Tom Duffy, a firefighting pilot from Bozeman, died while fighting the White River Fire in the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon.

“I am saddened to hear about the passing of Bozeman’s very own Tom Duffy,” Daines said. “Tom Duffy tragically passed fighting the fires at Mt. Hood National Forest in service of the people of Oregon. Cindy and I offer our prayers to Tom’s family and loved ones.”

Earlier Tuesday, Mt. Hood National Forest issued the following news release about the crash:

TYGH VALLEY, Ore. (Aug. 25, 2020) — On August 24, a pilot flying a Type 1 K-MAX helicopter on the White River Fire on Mt. Hood National Forest was killed while conducting bucket drops to help battle the blaze.

The pilot was the only individual on board of the aircraft at the time of the crash. The helicopter was a private contractor aircraft operating under a Call When Needed agreement with federal agencies.

Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and USDA Forest Service responded immediately to the crash by sending air and ground resources to the scene. The crash site is in rugged terrain, and the safety of first responders is our priority at this time.

“Yesterday, we lost a member of our firefighting family in a tragic helicopter crash,” said Glenn Casamassa, Regional Forester for the Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service. “We convey our deepest sympathy to the family, incident management team, firefighters, friends and emergency responders involved. The courage to selflessly protect lives and property are respected and admired. Their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten. Firefighting is dangerous work and risk is well known to those who fight the flames. We honor, we remember, we support the families and their loved ones. We affirm that we are a community and that the family is part of the firefighting family as well.”

A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect to protect firefighter safety, so we are reminding people that it is critical not to fly in the vicinity of White River Fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and the USDA Forest Service will be working with the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate further. As official reports become available, we will share more information.

We are working with the family on notifications and ask the media to respect their privacy during their time of bereavement.

“We don’t ever forget those people that are protecting our public lands and are on the front lines for us and our local communities,” said Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill.

A Critical Incident Stress Management team will be assisting firefighters working on the incident.

The White River Fire, located is 13 miles SW of Government Camp in the White River drainage near Forest Road 48, is currently 1,289 acres and 15 % containment. There are 354 personnel engaged in the firefighting efforts. Level 1 evacuations are in effect for Sportmans Park, which is approximately 8 miles east of the fire. Three additional Type 1 helicopters, including another K-MAX, and one Type 3 helicopter are still actively supporting suppression efforts on the fire.

While air resources such as these helicopters may be assigned to help with a specific fire, they are managed as an interagency pool that are flexible and responsive, often assisting with other fires when the opportunity and need arises.

Please respect area, road, recreation site, and trail closures surrounding the White River Fire which are in place to protect the safety of the public, firefighters, and first responders.

MT. HOOD, Oregon – A Montana pilot has reportedly died in a helicopter crash while fighting a wildfire in Oregon.

The crash happened Monday, in the Mt. Hood National Forest. The Type 1 Kmax was conducting bucket drops on the White River Fire in rough terrain, according to fire information officers.

Suzanne Flory, Acting Director of Communications, Northwest Region, USDA Forest Service, confirmed the pilot is a white male from Montana, who was flying a Montana-based helicopter.

At a press conference involving the the Mt. Hood National Forest, fire officials, and the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff indicated the helicopter is contracted out of Bozeman, Mont.

Additional details about the pilot have not been released.

The following a release from the Mt. Hood National Forest:

On Monday, August 24, we lost a member of our firefighting family in a tragic helicopter accident on Mt. Hood National Forest.

The helicopter was a Type 1 Kmax that was conducting bucket drops on the White River Fire to help battle the blaze, which was burning in rough terrain.

Wasco County Sheriff’s Office and USDA Forest Service air and ground resources responded immediately to the accident site. There will be an investigation into the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified.

The firefighting community is heartbroken to learn of this tragic loss and our condolences go out to the pilot’s family, friends, and co-workers.

There will be a virtual media briefing with the USDA Forest Service and Wasco County Sheriff’s Department sometime tomorrow. More details and a link will be provided when they are finalized.