Caliente, Nev. • Both pilots were killed when two small air-tankers collided in mid-air in southeast Nevada while assisting in the attack on a fast-moving wildfire that has burned more than 20 square miles near the Utah line.
Recovery operations were underway on Friday while more than 250 firefighters continued to battle the blaze, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said.
The pilots names have not been released.
They were dropping retardant on the flames of the human-caused fire about 150 miles northeast of Las Vegas before they collided just before 1 p.m. Thursday about 17 miles southeast of Caliente.
“We offer our sincere condolences to the families of the two pilots and to all those working with the BLM Nevada Ely District,” said Jon Raby, the agency’s Nevada director.
The smaller single engine air-tankers operating on contracts with the Interior Department can fly in tight areas inaccessible to larger planes.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the accident.
The fire broke out on Wednesday and more than doubled in size Thursday during near-record heat and low humidity. High temperatures in the region were forecast in excess of 110 degrees on Friday.