WICKIEUP, Ariz. — A retired fire chief and a pilot were killed when the airplane they were in crashed while battling the Cedar Basin Fire in Mohave County, Arizona.
The Bureau of Land Management confirmed that retired Northwest Fire Department Chief Jeff Piechura, 62, and pilot Matthew Miller, 48, were the two onboard the aircraft when the crash happened.
It is with a heavy heart we confirm the tragic death of retired Northwest Fire Chief Jeff Piechura, who lost his life in a plane crash on Saturday, July 10th, while fighting the #CedarBasinFire.— Northwest Fire (@NorthwestFire) July 11, 2021
Jeff, or “Chief Pie” to many, proudly led the District for 24 years. pic.twitter.com/2ykq568PUS
The crash occurred around 12 p.m. while crews were performing an air attack over the fire 14 miles east of Wikieup, ABC 15 Arizona reports.
Miller was a fire pilot contracted by the U.S. Forest Service, and Piechura was working as an Air Tactical Group Supervisor with the Coronado National Forest.
“Our hearts and most sincere condolences are with the families, friends and colleagues of both individuals lost in this tragic accident," said BLM Arizona State Director Raymond Suazo. "This reminds us of the inherent risks involved in wildland firefighting and the gratitude we owe to the courageous and committed men and women who serve willingly to protect lives, communities and natural resources.”
The Department of Interior Office of Aviation Services, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will be handling the investigation.