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Pilot dies after helicopter crashes in forest while battling Polles Fire

Authorities identified the pilot as Brian “B.J.” Boatman, 37, who was working for Airwest out of Glendale.

PAYSON, Ariz — Sad developments in the helicopter crash that took the life of a Valley firefighter during operations over the Polles Fire burning in the Tonto National Forest that was sparked by lightning.

It's a tragic loss, as crews not only continue to battle the flames but are now dealing with the loss of one of their own. 

Brian Boatman, 37, died after conducting standard supply missions to the "boots on the ground" crews fighting the flames in remote areas.

The husband and father of an 8-year-old died after the helicopter he was in crashed 10 miles west of Payson.

"On behalf of the Tonto National Forest and all the wildland firefighting community fighting the Polles Fire, we want to offer our condolences to his family we stand with you through the tragic period," James Duran said.

Officials confirmed to 12 News, the aviation firefighter was aiding ground crews with countless supplies and commend his efforts.

"While they work out there with the support of their families in the forest service, right now they need your support," a district ranger added.

Certainly a tough day, season and solemn moment for all personnel who are working to gain control on the Polles Fire.

"This is one of the tragic days that we all do not want to have on our watch," Incident Commander John Pierson said.

A heartbreaking hurdle for hundreds of brothers and sisters who knew him and will feel this pain for years to come.

"At a time like this it's important to off support to the families, our crews, who are a family themselves and our supporting communities such as Gila Country, the Tonto National Forest, and the Payson Ranger district and other fire departments acting as cooperators," Pierson said.

The hot and dry conditions working against their efforts to get in contained, six hotshot crews, and several engines are working around the clock to get a handle on it. 

A procession for Boatman was held on Friday.


Procession of fallen pilot

A procession is taking place to honor Bryan Boatman, the pilot who lost his life while fighting the Polles Fire. Sky 12 is over the scene. MORE: https://bit.ly/2AMh7lr

Posted by 12 News on Friday, July 10, 2020


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