ESTES PARK, Colo. (AP) — A pilot died after crashing while fighting a wildfire burning near Rocky Mountain National Park on Tuesday, authorities said.
The plane crash south of Estes Park was reported at 6:37 p.m., the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office said.
It is the second wildfire-related death this week after a person died in a wind-fueled blaze near Wyoming’s border with Montana.
KUSA-TV reported that it spoke to the pilot before he took off, saying that he was excited for the nighttime flight, which he said was the culmination of about five years of hard work.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigator to the scene, agency spokesperson Peter Knudson said Wednesday. What kind of equipment the Air Tractor AT-802 had to fight fires at night would be something investigators would look at, he said.
On Tuesday, the wildfire was fanned by gusty winds and forced mandatory evacuations in a forested area. By the end of the day, it had spread to 133 acres (54 hectares) and was 15% contained.
Wildfires pushed by strong winds also forced the evacuation of homes in Montana and Wyoming and led to death near the northern Wyoming of Clark, where wind gusts topped 100 mph (161 kph) Monday night, officials said Tuesday.