The news is sparse and slow to arrive, trickling like drops of water through cyberspace. A heavy air tanker has crashed this evening on a fire on the Utah/Nevada border. The pilot and co-pilot are dead, which is the way this story usually goes. The air tankers are grounded again; this isn't the first time. There will be an investigation. The fire will eventually go out whether we fight it or not. The black spot in the high desert will fade and disappear into memory.
I have heard this story so many times before: different names, different places, but it is still the same. I have known some of these lost pilots, sat next to them in helicopters, waved as they took off to yet another lightning strike in the hills. Would they think this end was worth it? There's no way of knowing. We always say we would like to go doing what we loved, but in that moment, when you hear the sound of tearing metal and see the ground rushing up to meet you, all you want to do is stay around a little longer.
Rest in peace, Tanker 11 crew.