Helicopter fighting California wildfires crashes, pilot dead

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Helicopter fighting California wildfires crashes, pilot dead
Helicopter fighting California wildfires crashes, pilot dead

A pilot battling a fire in central California died after his helicopter crashed.

Cal Fire said in a statement that a Call When Needed helicopter crashed on Wednesday while fighting a wildfire in western Fresno County. The Bell UH-1H helicopter was on a water dropping mission on the Hills Fire, about 9 miles (14 kilometres) south of Coalinga.

The pilot was the only one on board.

The Fresno Sheriff’s office was called shortly after 11 am to assist in a search and rescue mission.

Crews were battling wildfires in the San Francisco Bay Area and thousands of people were under orders to evacuate Wednesday as hundreds of wildfires blazed across the state amid a blistering heat wave now in its second week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom blamed “this extraordinary weather we’re experiencing and all of these lightning strikes? for 367 known fires, including 23 major fires or groups of fires. He said the state has recorded nearly 11,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours.

Police and firefighters went door-to-door before dawn Wednesday in a frantic scramble to warn residents to evacuate as fire encroached on Vacaville, a city of about 100,000 between San Francisco and Sacramento.

At least 50 structures were destroyed, including some homes, and 50 damaged.

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