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Former Fire Chief, ‘Seasoned’ Pilot Killed In Plane Crash While Fighting Cedar Basin Fire

Central Arizona Fire and Medical

A plane crash over the weekend claimed the lives to two crew members fighting a wildfire in northwestern Arizona. They were helping coordinate the aerial attack on the 730-acre Cedar Basin Fire. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Air Tactical Group Supervisor Jeff Piechura and pilot Matthew Miller were killed Saturday when the small plane they were flying crashed. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the men were conducting visual reconnaissance and helping direct aviation resources over the lightning-caused fire near the community of Wikieup.

Piechura was a retired chief of the Northwest Fire District in Tucson and had also worked for the Sedona Fire Department. Officials say Miller was a seasoned wildfire pilot with a U.S. Forest Service contractor.

The National Transportation Safety Board and other federal agencies are investigating.

There are nearly a dozen active wildfires currently burning on almost 175,000 acres in Arizona. Throughout the West 12,000 wildland firefighters are battling blazes on almost 900,000 acres amid record-high triple digit temperatures and extremely dry conditions.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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