MT Fire Aircraft Return to Duty After Helicopter Crash

Montana wildfires
Residents watch as flames from the Robertson Draw fire burn above Red Lodge, Mont., Tuesday evening, June 15, 2021. Wildfires burning in Montana exploded in size over the past 24 hours and triggered evacuations of people from rural areas as scorching heat and heavy winds stoked the blazes. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana ’s firefighting aircraft are returning to duty Friday after a helicopter crash grounded the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation fleet as major wildfires broke out this week.

Spokesperson Paige Cohn says a safety review cleared the agency’s six remaining helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft to resume operations. The results of that review were not made public. Cohn said that could happen Friday.

Fires Stoked by Heat, Wind Force Evacuations in MT

Minor injuries were reported among the five agency personnel aboard the Bell UH-1H (Huey) helicopter when it crash landed, rolled and burned while returning to its base during the fight against a fire east of Townsend.

Almost 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) have burned in Montana so far in 2021, according to state and U.S. government data. The vast majority of acreage burned —- 94 % — has been in human-caused fires, the data indicates.

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