Helicopter crashes in NE Wash.; pilot survives; fire starts

ORIENT, Wash. (AP) — A fire official says a logging helicopter that crashed in heavy timber near the town of Orient in northeast Washington has ignited a wildland fire that is growing unchecked. The female pilot was rescued and taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Herb Hippler is chief of a joint fire district for parts of Ferry and Stevens counties. He said the Forest Service and state Department of Natural Resources are expected to attack the 60-acre wildfire Friday, when high winds and low humidity are forecast. It was too dangerous to fight the fire overnight after the helicopter crashed Thursday evening. Hippler says his department will protect a half dozen homes in the area.

He said the 30-year-old pilot was taken to a Colville hospital.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the helicopter was a UH-1.

Hippler says witnesses report the helicopter had just lifted off with a load of logs when there was a loud popping noise and it crashed.

Orient is about 90 miles north of Spokane.