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Montana fire aircraft sidelined after helicopter crashes and burns

Montana

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A DNRC helicopter was coming in for a landing Tuesday when it crash-landed due to high winds, tipped onto its side and caught on fire. | Cory Swanson, Independent Record

BILLINGS, Montana (AP) — A Montana firefighting agency imposed a 48-hour stand-down of all its aircraft after a helicopter crash-landed and burned in heavy winds.

The sidelining of the state Department of Natural Resources Conservation fleet of seven helicopters and three fixed-wing aircraft comes as Montana’s fire season grew dramatically more severe this week. Numerous major blazes ignited across central and southern Montana.

Minor injuries were reported among the five agency personnel aboard the Bell UH-1H (Huey) helicopter that crashed near a roadway while involved in a fire east of Townsend, Montana.

The 48-hour stand down started Tuesday night, the Independent Record newspaper reported. Aviation personnel involved in the accident were being debriefed. The results of the state’s investigation will be given to federal aviation officials, according to the natural resources agency.

The largest fire in the state, burning southeast of Red Lodge near Yellowstone National Park has burned 8 major structures such as houses, and 13 outbuildings and other structures, officials said.

The human-caused fire in the Robertson Draw area has burned more than 30 square miles (85 square kilometers). Officials have not released further details on how it started and it remains under investigation by law enforcement.

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