Two killed in helicopter crash while fighting Idaho wildfire

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A helicopter carrying two pilots, who were helping battle a massive wildfire in the northwest of Idaho, crashed, killing all passengers, the US Forest Service reported.

On Thursday, the CH-47D Chinook helicopter was carrying two pilots who were assisting to put out the Moose Fire, a wildfire north of Salmon that has now burned over 23,500 acres.

The identities of the pilots have not been released to the public yet, but the company managing the helicopter released a statement following the news of the crash. In it, they extend their condolences to friends and family of the wildfire responders.

“It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that on July 21, 2022, at approximately 3:30 p.m. a CH-47D series “Chinook” helicopter operated by ROTAK Helicopter Service with two pilots on board was involved in an accident near Salmon, Idaho,” the brief statement read. “Emergency medical teams are responding to the scene. ROTAK is working closely with all appropriate agencies and will issue a full statement as information is confirmed.”

The blaze is burning in grass, brush and timber across the southwest of North Fork in the vicinity of Moose Creek and Deadwater on the North Fork Ranger District, according to Wildfire Today. There are currently 18 hand crews, 25 fire engines, and 7 helicopters for a total of 517 personnel attending to the fire, which is an increase of 141 individuals in the last day.

The Moose Fire in northwest Idaho has burned more than 20,000 acres and the cause of the blaze is still unknown (KTVB/video screengrab)
The Moose Fire in northwest Idaho has burned more than 20,000 acres and the cause of the blaze is still unknown (KTVB/video screengrab)

Increasing winds on Friday afternoon, in addition to relative humidity throughout the day, is posing a concern for firefighters, who believe it will cause the blaze to spread south of the Salmon River west towards Spring Creek, east towards North Fork, and spotting to the north side of the river.

There are currently no structures that have been damaged from the fire, but there are 301 structures threatened.

An evacuation centre has been set up at the Salmon Valley Baptist Church, 1230 Cemetery Street in Salmon.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and as of Thursday evening, crews had 0 per cent of the blaze contained.

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