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Firefighter Tragically Killed When Helicopter Crashes in Montgomery County, Texas

A U.S. Forest Service firefighter died tragically yesterday afternoon, when a helicopter crashed near Lake Conroe in Montgomery County, Texas.

Helicopter Crashed During Controlled Burn

The 2009 ASTAR 350 helicopter went down shortly after 2:00 p.m., during a controlled burn operation in Sam Houston National Forest.

Searchers later located the aircraft in a thickly wooded area near Bethel Road and FM 149, about 70 miles north of Houston.

The male firefighter died at the scene.

Second Firefighter and Pilot in Stable Condition

Rescuers used the jaws of life to extract a female firefighter and the pilot from the wreckage.

The survivors were rushed to Conroe Regional Medical Center in Texas, where both were listed in stable condition last night.

No one on the ground was hurt.

Helicopter Was on Aerial Ignition Mission When It Crashed

The doomed chopper apparently belonged to New Mexico-based Mountain Air helicopters, and was on contract to the U.S. Forest Service.

The firefighters were performing an aerial ignition mission when it crashed, and had been using equipment to drop plastic spheres that burst into flame after hitting the ground.

A heavy smoke warning in effect at the time suggests visibility may have been an issue during the flight.

“They’re usually pretty safe, so it’s a rare tragedy,” one area resident told “It could be a really dangerous job what they do, I’m sure. Just driving down the road it gets thicker than fog sometimes.”

FAA and NTSB Investigating Fatal Helicopter Crash

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were expected on scene this morning.

Crews were also bringing in heavy equipment to carve a road to the remote crash site. Once that is complete, they’ll begin removing the wreckage.

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