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Helicopter Helping to Fight AZ Wildfire Crashes; Pilot Dies

Polles Fire
Polles Fire from above. Photo via Tonto National Forest.

PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered that flags on state buildings be flown at half-staff Wednesday for a pilot killed in a helicopter crash while helping fight a wildfire.

The crash that killed Bryan Boatman of Glendale occurred Tuesday under unknown circumstances, officials said.

The identity of the pilot was provided by Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd and other officials.

Boatman, 37, was the only person aboard the Bell UH-1H helicopter that went down Tuesday afternoon about 10 miles (16 kilometers) west of Payson in the Tonto National Forest, said Ian Gregor, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The FAA and National Transportation Board will investigate the crash and the NTSB will try to determine a probable cause.

Boatman was working to supply firefighters on the ground and was employed by Glendale-based Airwest Helicopters, Shepherd said.

He is survived by his wife an an 8-year-old child, Ducey said Tuesday night.

“This tragic loss is a reminder of the ever-present dangers faced by those battling wildfires,” Ducey said. “Boatman was carrying out a service to the people of Arizona alongside the men and women fighting the Polles Fire. He performed his duty with honor and bravery, and it will be remembered as such by our state.”

Approximately 350 firefighters and other personnel were assigned to the fire that started Friday by lighting in the Mazatzal Wilderness on Polles Mesa.

Fire officials said the area is only accessible by helicopter and that crews have been sleeping in the wilderness with food, drinking water and supplies flown in daily by helicopter.

Four hotshot crews were airlifted Monday into the area to battle the fire, which is burning high desert grass and pinion juniper.

The fire had grown by Tuesday night to nearly a square-mile (2.3 square kilometers) with zero containment.

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