FRESNO, Calif. (KABC) -- A helicopter pilot who was killed while fighting a massive brush fire in Central California has been identified as 52-year-old Michael John Fournier of Rancho Cucamonga, authorities confirmed on Thursday.
Fournier was killed while making water drops over the Hills Fire about 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to Cal Fire. He was the only person onboard the aircraft.
After hours of driving over rugged off-road terrain, the Fresno County Sheriff's search and rescue team reached the remote crash site to recover his body on Wednesday evening.
According to the aviation website Flight Aware, the pilot was 3,300 feet in the air before the flight path suddenly stopped.
Sheriff's search and rescue teams were requested by Cal Fire to make the trip through rugged terrain about 2-to-3 miles off the main road to the site of the crash.
The crash sparked what Cal Fire described an incident within an incident: a new 50-acre blaze that later merged into the Hills Fire, which has charred 1,500 acres about 9 miles south of Coalinga. It was 35% contained as of Thursday morning.
As the news of the deadly crash makes its way around base camp and fire lines, a critical incident stress debriefing team made available to crews.
"It's tough on the crews. Whether you knew the person or didn't know the person, we are still all fighting this fire together. The camaraderie is very high," says Battalion Chief Seth Brown of Cal Fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and Cal Fire's Serious Accident Review Team are leading the investigation into the cause of the crash.