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Retired fire chief, pilot die in plane crash while battling Arizona wildfire

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Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-11 19:28:00-04

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.

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.