Two pilots killed in mid-air collision while battling wildfire in Nevada

UPDATED at 10:15 p.m. MDT July 30, 2020

Bishop Fire
Bishop Fire, from Ella Mountain Lookout July 29, 2020. InciWeb photo.

(This article was first published at

Two air tankers collided July 30 while working on the Bishop Fire in southeast Nevada.

The Air Tractor Single Engine Air Tankers, SEATs, were involved in a mid-air collision Thursday afternoon according to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Claire Morville. There was one person on board each aircraft.

At 10 p.m. MDT July 30 a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management, Chris Hanefeld, confirmed that the collision occurred earlier in the day at about 12:55 p.m. He said both pilots were killed in the crash. Recovery operations are currently underway and initial notifications are still being made.

“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the two pilots and to all those working with the BLM Nevada Ely District,” said BLM Nevada State Director Jon Raby.

map Bishop Fire
Map showing heat detected by satellites on the Bishop fire as late as 3 a.m. MDT July 30, 2020.

The Bishop fire, reported July 29, has burned 500 acres 14 miles south-southwest of Caliente, Nevada.

The accident occurred near the intersection of Kane Springs Road and Riggs Road, Ms. Morville said.

The fire is on land managed by the BLM. The two privately owned aircraft were under contract to the agency.

SEATs are small airplanes used to support wildland firefighters on the ground. They can deliver up to 800 gallons of fire retardant and operate in areas where larger airtankers cannot.

The names of the pilots have not been released.

Our sincere condolences go out to the pilots’ family, friends, and coworkers.

map Bishop Fire
Bishop Fire map. Data from 7:53 p.m. MDT July 29, 2020. BLM.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Fort Carson reports 20 training related vegetation fires in last 12 months

Two recent fires started on the base burned a total of 5,000 acres, two homes, numerous outbuildings, and dozens of vehicles.

A spokesperson for Fort Carson, a U.S. Army base south of Colorado Springs, admits that 20 fires in the last 12 months have been a result of training activities on the base, according to KOAA. Below is an excerpt from their report:

On March 16, a fire caused by live ammunition training on a Fort Carson artillery range burned nearly 3,000 acres off Mountain Post property, destroying two homes, numerous outbuildings, and dozens of vehicles.  Sunday, a wildfire caused by shooting on the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex public shooting range burned more than 2,000 acres and forced the total closure of a roughly 10-mile stretch of I-25 for more than an hour.

Gert MaraisLocal residents and elected officials are wondering if there is anything the base can do to reduce the number of fires started by training, such as eliminating dangerous activities during periods of elevated fire danger.

Ten years ago this month the pilot of a single engine air tanker was killed while helping firefighters on the ground contain a fire that started on Training Area 25 at Fort Carson. Wildfire Today wrote about the report released by the National Transportation Safety Board, which indicates there were very strong winds that day when Gert Marais died:

At the time of the crash, a U.S. Forest Service person on the ground who was directing the SEAT estimated that at the time of the crash the wind was out of the southwest at 30-40 knots. Winds at the Fort Carson airfield, 5 miles from the crash site, were between 20 and 40 knots from 1300 to the time of the accident at 1815.

Strong winds like occured on April 15, 2008 often indicate high wildfire danger if the relative humidity is low and the vegetation is dry.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bean.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Air tanker base, and a fire south of Hot Springs, SD

Fire south of Angostura reservior

Today I took take a few photos at a grass fire south of Hot Springs, South Dakota, near Angostura Reservoir. Fire departments from Hot Springs, Oelrichs, and Mennekahta responded and had it knocked down pretty quickly.

Fire south of Angostura reservior
An engine and water tender from Oelrichs FD

Fire south of Angostura reservior

Returning to Hot Springs, I stopped by the air tanker base at Hot Springs Municipal Airport. Hot Springs is one of five Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) bases in or near South Dakota. The others are at Pierre, Buffalo, Lemon, Rapid City (which can also handle large air tankers), and Newcastle, Wyoming. Hot Springs is the main SEAT base and is the only one continuously staffed, and is open June through October.

As far as I know, no air tankers were dispatched to the fire near Angostura Reservoir pictured above. Today Tanker 466 was working out of the base and reloaded numerous times as it worked the Sheep Wagon fire (BKF-622) about 10 miles southeast of Newcastle, WY. The aircraft is operated by Taylor Aviation out of Fort Benton, Montana. South Dakota has one SEAT on exclusive use contract this year but has several others available on Call When Needed (CWN) agreements.

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