An aerial firefighter lost her life while fighting the Horse Gulch Fire north of Helena. Her body was recovered Wednesday afternoon, according to NBC Montana.

*Update: I spoke with Sheriff Dutton at 840 a.m. The fire is now estimated at 1,000 acres.

According to the InciWeb fire information website managed by the federal government, the US Forest Service is reporting the fire size at 600 acres as of roughly 2 a.m. Thursday morning.

In their 6 p.m. live broadcast, NBC Montana reported that "the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office says the pilot's body has been recovered. The crash happened near the Hauser Lake portion of the Missouri River. The plane was scooping up water for the Horse Gulch Fire when it went down."

Peter Christian with KGVO News tells us that the aircraft was an Air Tractor 802.

Jessica Nelson with the Montana Television Network reports that the plane was contracting for the US Forest Service. "The pilot was a 45-year old woman; her name has not yet been released. She was the only person aboard the plane." Nelson added that "the Horse Gulch Fire was reported at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday and is centered about five miles south of York, and two miles north of Canyon Ferry.

Officials are on high alert to the fire danger this week as temperatures are expected to soar to near or above triple digits in parts of Montana.

I spoke with Joe Lester from the National Weather Service office in Billings Tuesday morning. Fortunately, he tells us, we aren't anticipating high winds along with the heat this week. Nonetheless, he's urging everyone to remain cautious.

Joe Lester: "We're not really looking at any strong wind days. Those are the worst- those really hot, dry, and windy days. So in general, it's not going to be too windy. So that's a good thing. But nonetheless, it takes heat like that it takes very little to get a fire going."


Press Release

Governor Gianforte, Governor Little Joint Statement on Horse Gulch Fire Fatality

HELENA, Mont. – Montana Governor Greg Gianforte and Idaho Governor Brad Little today issued the following statement upon learning of the passing of a wildland firefighter responding to the Horse Gulch fire in Helena, Montana. The plane was on loan from Idaho to the U.S. Forest Service, which is responding to the fire.

 “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the young female wildland firefighter who tragically lost her life responding to the Horse Gulch fire in Helena, Montana. Our first responders and wildland firefighters put their lives on the line to quickly respond to threats and protect our communities. It’s a true act of bravery to run toward a fire. We join all Montanans and Idahoans in praying for the fallen hero’s family and friends during this tragic time.

“We continue to monitor the Horse Gulch fire which was initially managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Montana Department of Natural Resources has recently deployed resources to support the response.

“In the meantime, those living near the fire should listen to local officials, avoid the area, and allow these brave men and women to do their jobs.”

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