- A pilot was killed fighting a fire near Estes Park, Colorado.
- A volunteer firefighter died in Wyoming.
- Both fires were caused by power lines knocked down in high winds.
Two deaths are being blamed on wildfires sparked by high winds this week in the western U.S.
A pilot working to help suppress the Kruger Rock Fire near Estes Park, Colorado, was killed when his tanker plane crashed Tuesday evening, according to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.
And a volunteer firefighter was killed in a wildfire Monday in Park County, Wyoming, the Cody Enterprise reported.
“It hits incredibly close to home for our department,” Kristie Hoffert, medical chief for the Clark Fire District, which covers the small community where the blaze happened, told the Enterprise. “We are struggling.”
The victim’s husband identified her as Cindy Ruth, 61.
Sustained winds were measured at 58 mph in the area with gusts up to 75 mph.
“It was conditions that you couldn’t attack the fire, you couldn’t fight the fire,” Park County Fire Warden Jerry Parker told in a phone interview Wednesday evening.
In a situation like that, he said, all you can do is try to get everyone out safely.
The blaze burned three homes and nine outbuildings.
(MORE: Washington State, British Columbia Devastated by Flooding, Landslides)
The fire was sparked by a power line blown down in the wind, Park said.
The same cause was cited in the Estes Park blaze, which started Tuesday.
“We determined … that high winds had blown a tree branch into power lines and they had arced and started the fire,” Genevieve Kramer, public information office for the Larimer Sheriff’s Office, told Wednesday.
The Kruger Rock Fire burned about 140 acres as of Wednesday afternoon and was 15% contained. Weather – including lighter winds and a dusting of snow – helped firefighters stop the fire’s growth.
Some evacuation orders for the area were downgraded, but others remained in place Wednesday evening.
Winds up to 30 mph Tuesday in Estes Park were caused by the same storm system, known as an atmospheric river, that brought devastating flooding and deadly landslides to Washington State and British Columbia.
Firefighting efforts, including those from the air, were challenged by the weather.
“Despite the gusting winds, air resources were utilized to make water and suppressant drops,” an update from the Sheriff’s Office said.
The fire started about 6:50 a.m. Tuesday. The crash of the Air Tractor AT-802A was reported about 6:37 p.m. and the wreckage found about three hours later.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending an investigator to the crash, the AP reported.
Thepany’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.