Firefighter helicopter hovering. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.
An investigation is currently underway after Bryan “B.J.” Boatman, a 37-year-old pilot, died yesterday after his helicopter crashed while moving supplies for firefighters on the ground in Tonto National Forest, Arizona. There are at least 360 firefighters, including two Hotshot crews, working vigorously in the Polles Mesa area to contain the wildfire that has broken out.
During a press briefing, James Duran, forest supervisor of the Carson National Forest, said, “It’s with great sadness that we bring the news of a fallen firefighter.” Later in the briefing, John Pierson, the Southwest Area Team 2 incident commander, said, “We lost an aviator, B.J. Boatman, a fantastic gentleman, husband, father, uncle, and more so to the firefighting family.” Boatman is survived by his wife and 8-year-old child. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered flags to fly at half-staff in his honor on July 8.
According to a U.S. Forest Service press release, wildfires in the Tonto National Forest have burned more than 224,500 acres this year. The press release explained the dangerous fire conditions result from a wet winter that produced a large amount of dry grass and brush. These conditions led officials to close the national forest on July 2.
The Polles Mesa wildfire appears to have been partially contained on July 4. The Tonto National Forest Twitter account tweeted, “Polles Fire burning in Mazatzal Wilderness 11 miles west of Payson. Spread stopped at 137 acres. 2 crews, 5 helicopters assigned. NO evacs or structures threatened. Mop up in progress. Caused by lightning. Stage 3 Fire Restrictions in effect.”
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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