Air tanker pilot fighting Estes Park wildfire dies in airplane crash |

Air tanker pilot fighting Estes Park wildfire dies in airplane crash

Sky-Hi News staff report
The Kruger Rock Fire burns Tuesday morning south of Fish Creek Road in the Little Valley area on the south side of Estes Park. The fire, most recently reported at 133 acres, is threatening nearby structures.
Justin Smith/Larimer County Sheriff’s Office

The pilot of an air tanker died in a plane crash Tuesday night while fighting the Kruger Rock Fire outside Estes Park.

The single-engine air tanker went down south of town around 6:30 p.m., but the crash site was not found until nearly 10 p.m. The pilot was the only occupant of the aircraft and did not survive.

The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said the crash investigation will be led by the FAA and NTSB.

As of Tuesday evening, the fire burning southeast of Estes Park was estimated at 133 acres with 15% containment. Gusty winds and low humidity contributed to the fast spread of the blaze, which is threatening several structures and has forced some evacuations.

No structure damage had been reported as of Tuesday night, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office also said that despite the gusting winds, air resources were utilized to make water and suppressant drops. Over 150 personnel worked the fire Tuesday, and more air resources were ordered for today along with additional fire crews.

As of Wednesday at 11:40 a.m., the U.S. Forest Service reported that the Kruger Rock Fire had grown to 140 acres.

The Sheriff’s Office reported that an investigation into the cause of the fire found that high winds had blown a tree down onto a nearby powerline.

Authorities have not yet identified the pilot who died fighting the wildfire.

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