YREKA Crews continued making progress against a wildfire in the Klamath National Forest on Tuesday, as officials continued their investigation of a fatal helicopter crash during firefighting operations the day before. Officials identified the pilot killed in Monday morning’s crash as Dennis Luster Davis, 61, of Boise, Idaho.
Davis was delivering water to firefighters when his helicopter went down in a heavily wooded mountainous area with very steep and rugged terrain near the Oregon border, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department.
The helicopter was under contract with the U.S. Forest Service from a company called Idaho Helicopters Inc., based in Boise. Davis was the only person on board.
On Tuesday, Forest Service investigators examined the crash site about 12 miles southeast of Happy Camp.
The aircraft had been carrying a large water container to refill hand-pump backpacks for crews on the ground battling the massive wildfire. Some firefighters had seen the crash and reported it to emergency dispatchers.
Davis’ wife, Vicki Vosburg, issued a statement following the crash, describing her husband as a Vietnam War veteran who also had worked as a Life Flight pilot for a Boise hospital. He had planned to quit flying this year and concentrate on a naturopathic medicine business he’d started, she said.
He was very committed to this being his last year, he was just tired of flying and wanted to help people get better, Vosburg said.
More than 1,100 fire crews were battling the cluster of lightning-sparked fires dubbed the Elk Complex, which have so far burned more than 14 square miles in a remote region just south of the Oregon border. One of the nearest cities is Medford, Ore., about 75 miles north.
The fires, which started July 10, had threatened up to 550 homes near the town of Happy Camp, but none has been destroyed.
About 28 percent of the fire was surrounded Tuesday, and officials expected it to be fully surrounded by Sunday.
Nearly 700 miles to the south, firefighters were aided by cloud cover and damp air Tuesday in battling the nearly 3-week-old blaze in the Los Padres National Forest.
The fire, ignited July 4 by sparks from grinding equipment outside the forest borders, held at about 48 square miles and was 65 percent surrounded. Full containment was expected Aug. 3.