Incident Name: Texas Helicopter aerial ignition
Date:  3/27/2019
Personnel: Daniel Joseph Laird
Age:  41
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: Captain, Helitack


Daniel Joseph Laird, a Forest Service helitack captain from the Tahoe National Forest in California, lost his life on March 27, 2019 in an A-Star (AS350) helicopter accident, while supporting a routine controlled burn on the Sam Houston National Forest in Montgomery County, Texas.

It is unknown at this time what caused the A-Star helicopter to go down during the aerial ignition operation (They were dropping little ignition balls to start the fire.). Another firefighter and the pilot on the helicopter survived. An investigation is underway.

As we know more, we will post it. The 72 hour report is below.


Montgomery County, Sam Houston Forest, Texas (50 miles north of Houston)

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Initial notice from the US Forest Service: It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Daniel Joseph Laird, a Forest Service employee, who lost his life on March 27, 2019, while supporting a routine controlled burn on the Sam Houston National Forest in Montgomery County, Texas.Daniel served the Forest Service for 23 years and worked as a helitack captain on the Tahoe National Forest in California, where he was permanently assigned. It takes great courage to be a wildland firefighter.Despite the courage necessary to work in this profession, it does not lessen the sadness we feel when we lose one of our own.In honor of Daniel Joseph Laird who lost his life serving the American people, and in honor of his family, who lost a loved one, I am ordering all Forest Service facilities to fly the American flag at half-staff for three days, beginning on the morning of Friday, April 5, 2019 through sunset on Sunday, April 7, 2019.Please keep Daniel’s family, friends, and co-workers in your thoughts and prayers and join me in honoring his service and dedication.-VICTORIA CHRISTIANSENChief
  • Statement from the Region 5 ForesterFallen Firefighter Daniel Laird – A great loss for USFS and entire Wildland community.“You may have already heard from Secretary Perdue and Chief Christiansen that we lost one of our own, Daniel Laird, yesterday, in a helicopter accident while conducting a prescribed burn with our Region 8 partners on the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas. Daniel was 41 years old and leaves behind his wife Heather and daughter Evain.Daniel started as a seasonal firefighter on the Tahoe and worked his way up to Helitack Captain. His passion was in aviation, but he was also known for his ability to lead a strike team of engines or a task force of hand crews and heavy equipment. He was a true leader in every sense. He was dedicated to being an instructor and a believer in the apprentice program, where he helped grow people just like himself. Daniel was originally from Graeagle, CA, and committed his working life to the Forest Service. He was extremely knowledgeable about his craft and loved his job. He had an infectious smile, natural physical talent, and his greatest love of all was his family.Our Forest Service family is hurting over this tremendous loss. It is an emotional time and Daniel’s loss can impact even the strongest among us. We grieve with Daniel’s immediate family, friends, and community. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers. The Region is providing support to the Tahoe and all who need it as they digest this sad news. I will pass more details on arrangements once they become available.Please continue to look out for one another and take care of one another.”Randy MooreRegional ForesterUSFS Region 5
  • US Forest Service: 72 Hour Report

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Tahoe Helitack Captain Daniel Laird dies in helicopter accident on the Sam Houston National Forest in TexasMarch 28, 2019 | more from the USFS R5 Press Release at YubaNetVALLEJO, Calif., March 28, 2019 – Daniel J. Laird, a helitack captain from the Tahoe National Forest, died Wednesday in a helicopter accident on the Sam Houston National Forest in Montgomery County, Texas. Laird, 41, was on temporary assignment to the Sam Houston National Forest due to his experience as a long-time helitack member. He became a permanent helitack member in 2003 after serving as a seasonal employee. He is survived by his wife and daughter. (more at the link…)
  • Man killed in Sam Houston National Forest helicopter crash identified3/29/19 | CHRON By Nicole HensleyA man who died in a helicopter crash in Sam Houston National Forest was identified as a two-decade veteran of the U.S. Forest Service, according to federal officials.Daniel Laird, a helitack captain from the Tahoe National Forest in California, was identified Thursday as the lone fatality from an aircraft that crashed Wednesday afternoon in Montgomery County. He was visiting Texas to help with a controlled burn in the forest, according to a Department of Agriculture news release. He is survived by his wife and a daughter, officials said.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • USFA Memorial Database: Daniel Laird
  • Sam Houston National Forest website (where he was working when the helicopter crashed)
  • Tahoe National Forest website (Dan’s home forest)
  • Texas procession Live Stream from KHOU Houston on March 4
  • California procession and memorial for Daniel Laird
    • The following is the current list of memorial events to honor Daniel:
    • Public viewing: Friday, April 5 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at Ullrey Memorial Chapel, at 817 Almond Street, Yuba City, CA.
    • Processional: Saturday, April 6 from approximately 9:15 or 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. from Yuba Community College in Marysville to Sutter Cemetery at 7200 Butte House Rd. Sutter, CA.
    • Graveside Service: Saturday, April 6 at 10:00 a.m. This is a family service and seating is limited but they have invited any members of the Tahoe National Forest, close friends, and special guests to attend as room allows. Others are asked to head to the House of Bread Church.
    • Arrival for Memorial: The Laird family will drive through the Cordon of Honor to the House of Bread Church at approximately 12:30 p.m. A media area will be promulgated for those desiring to film this event.
    • Memorial: Saturday, April 6 at 2:00 p.m. at the House of Bread Church, at 6521 Hazel Ave, Orangevale, CA.
    •  Will be streamed on the Tahoe NF Facebook page at 2PM (Pacific Time), Saturday, April 6, 2019from the House of Bread Church, in Orangeville, California
  • Information on all the memorial arrangements for Daniel in Texas and California
  • Official Procession and Gravesite Instructions for the California memorial
  • Procession & Graveside InstructionsDue to the overwhelming outpouring of support for Daniel and the small size of the cemetery, the graveside service will be limited to family, friends, special guests and Tahoe National Forest employees only. As the procession reaches the cemetery and the family turns in, we are requesting the procession continue to the House of Bread Church to begin set up for the Cordon of Honor. Thank you in advance for your understanding.Daniel Laird Memorial
    Saturday April 6th 2 p.m.
    House of Bread Church
    6521 Hazel Ave
    Orangevale, CA 95662
  • GO FUND ME PAGE to aid Daniel’s wife Heather and daughter

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Contributors to this article:  Mellie

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