Two pilots have died after their planes collided mid-air as they tried to fight a wildfire burning in Southern Nevada, The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed July 30.
The incident occurred around 12:55 p.m. near Caliente, Nevada, about 120 miles north of Las Vegas on Thursday and involved two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) which were working to help contain the Bishop Fire.
The names of the two victims have not yet been released and no one was injured on the ground. A recovery operation is now underway and the pilots’ families were being notified.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Bureau of Land Management Fire and Aviation said, “We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the two pilots and to all those working with the Bureau of Land Management – Nevada Ely District.”
#NeverForgotten: Mid-air collision involving two contract Single Engine Air Tankers occurred on #BishopFire, SW of Caliente, NV. Both pilots were killed in the crash. Recovery operations are underway & notifications are being made –> https://t.co/4qcs1o1WCl #NationalFireNews pic.twitter.com/qjUJiIu96k
— Bureau of Land Management- Nevada (@blmnv) July 31, 2020
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is set to conduct an investigation into the incident and a recovery operation is currently underway.
SEATs are small airplanes used to support firefighters on the ground. They can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant and operate in areas where larger air tankers cannot. Contract pilots play an important role in wildland firefighting efforts as the Bureau of Land Management protects the public, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and other values and resources.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, the Bishop Fire has burned around 14,000 acres since it started two days ago and more than 250 firefighters are on the ground working to contain it. However, they are currently being challenged by record-breaking heat and low humidity.
The cause of the fire has not yet been established.
Ground and aerial resources are fully suppressing the approximately 7000-acre Bishop Fire in Rainbow Canyon, about 17 miles southwest of Caliente, Nev.
Full containment is expected Wednesday, Aug. 5. The cause of the fire is unknown. More info at https://t.co/lmnGOMNzIW pic.twitter.com/2k2LYwJZOD
— Nevada Fire Info (@NevadaFireInfo) July 30, 2020
Officials are hopeful the fire can be contained by Aug. 5, and they are currently working to keep the blaze out of nearby Rainbow Canyon.