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Retired Tucson fire chief, U.S. forest fire pilot dies in aircraft accident while fighting Cedar Basin Fire

The accident happened around 12 p.m. on Saturday. There were two crew members in the aircraft and both died in the crash, officials said.

WIKIEUP, Ariz. — A retired fire chief and a U.S. Forest fire pilot have died after their aircraft crashed while fighting the Cedar Basin Fire near Wikieup on Saturday. 

Bureau of Land Management officials said in a statement that the accident happened around noon while the two-man crew was working to control the fire from above. 

BLM confirmed on Sunday morning that one of the men who died was 62-year-old Jeff Piechura, a retired fire chief with the Northwest Fire Department in the Tucson area.

The pilot was 48-year-old Matthew Miller, a fire pilot with Falcon Executive Aviation, Inc, contracted by the U.S. Forest Service, BLM said.

Officials said the two were on board a Beechcraft King Air C-90 aircraft, conducting visual reconnaissance and aviation command and control over the fire, when the accident occurred.

We are saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague Fire Chief Jeff Piechura. Chief Pie was flying air attack near...

Posted by Central Arizona Fire and Medical on Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Cedar Basin Fire was caused by lightning and has burned about 450 acres, according to officials. 

BLM officials said in a statement, “Our hearts and most sincere condolences are with the families, friends and colleagues of both individuals lost in this tragic accident."

"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," said BLM Arizona State Director Raymond Suazo. 

Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey said offered condolences to the firefighters families. 

"The memory of these brave, selfless firefighters will live on," Ducey wrote. "Arizona is deeply saddened by their loss, and grateful for their commitment to protecting others from Cedar Basin Fire. My condolences go to their families, loved ones, and fellow firefighters."

This is a developing story. 12 News will update as more information is provided. 

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