WIKIEUP, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — A retired Northwest Fire District Fire Chief was one of two people who died Saturday afternoon after an air attack aircraft crashed while helping fight a wildfire in Mohave County.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, an aircraft helping perform aerial reconnaissance and command and control over the Cedar Basin Fire burning near Wikieup crashed around noon. The aircraft performs aerial supervision and coordination for a fire’s aviation resources. Officials say two crew members were on board and did not survive. In an update on Sunday, officials identified the pilot as 48-year-old Matthew Miller. Authorities also confirmed the identity of the passenger as Jeff Piechura, a former fire chief.
“He was a hero. He really was. A good father. A great great father. A great husband, and a great brother,” said Christine Piechura, Jeff’s sister.
Christine told Arizona’s Family that he started volunteering when he was 17-years-old. Piechura was recruited to help build the Northwest Fire District in Tucson before retiring. Piechura’s career took him to Stockton, California, where he served as the city’s fire chief for a year. It wasn’t long before he returned to Arizona, serving as assistant fire chief in Sedona, and helping the City of Tucson.
“We will provide additional information pending next of kin notification. Our hearts go out to the families of our brave wildland firefighters,” a BLM spokesperson said in a statement released Saturday.
The lightning-caused Cedar Basin Fire has burned 714 acres and has zero containment as of Sunday afternoon. The fire is located 14 miles northeast of Wikieup. The NTSB is investigating the crash.