A helicopter crashed at the Anderson Airport near Mile 280 of the Parks Highway on Sunday. The 1960 Bell 204B “Huey” was operated by Northern Pioneer Helicopters and on contract with the Department of Natural Resources when it crashed while landing at the airstrip’s helipad.
The pilot and helicopter were assisting with fire fighting operations on the Clear Fire (Forest Fire 346).
The pilot and sole occupant was 56-year-old Douglas Ritchie of Wasilla. Ritchie’s remains were sent to the state medical examiner for autopsy. No foul play is suspected and family was notified. The National Transportation and Safety Board was notified and are responding to conduct an investigation.
“Wildland firefighters and aviators are a close community and are in support of the family, friends, and co-workers during this tragic time,” the AKFireInfo website reported.
“We cannot overstate the danger of fire season in Alaska. Tragically, over the weekend, we lost a brave Alaskan who was part of our state’s effort to combat the Clear fire in the interior. We thank Douglas Ritchie for his service, and pray for his family,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday.
There are 26 staffed fires across Alaska and close to 700 firefighters assigned to fight them. A high pressure system has settled over the state, bringing with it hot, dry and windy conditions. This weather pattern is forecast to continue through the week and be followed by a series of thunderstorms.