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Retired NWF chief dies after aircraft crash while battling fire in Mohave County

chief jeff.jpg
Cedar Basin Fire
Posted at 8:22 PM, Jul 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 21:38:38-04

WIKIEUP, AZ — The Bureau of Land Management confirmed Sunday that a retired Northwest Fire Department fire chief and a pilot were killed after an aircraft crashed while battling the Cedar Basin Fire in Mohave County.

The BLM confirmed that retired fire chief 62-year-old Jeff Piechura, and Pilot 48-year-old Matthew Miller, were the two aboard the aircraft when the crash happened.

Piechura served the Northwest Fire District for 24 years. In November 1988, he became the District’s first Fire Chief, according to a statement from the Northwest Fire District. In 2012, he retired from the district, but continued his firefighting career in Stockton and Sedona before coming back to Pima County.

"Piechura’s passing leaves a tremendous void in the lives of his beloved family, friends, and the thousands of firefighters across the country he worked with. His professional accomplishments are far too many to be captured in a single document and his personal impact on those who knew him is too immense to comprehend. For those of us fortunate enough to work with Jeff, or ‘Chief Pie,’ we will forever miss his warm smile, firm handshake, and endearing embrace he gave those around him," the Northwest Fire Department said in a statement.

In a statement, The Bureau of Land Management says the crash occurred around 12 p.m. while crews were performing an air attack over the fire near Wikieup.

"Our hearts go out to the families of our brave wildland firefighters,” The Bureau of Land Management said in a statement.

The Department of Interior Office of Aviation Services, the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA will conduct the investigation.