Helicopter pilot dies in crash while fighting California wildfires

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A helicopter pilot fighting the California wildfires died Wednesday morning when his aircraft went down in Fresno County, officials said.

The pilot was on a water dropping mission when the chopper crashed about 160 miles south of San Francisco, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement.

The pilot was the only person aboard the helicopter.

Hundreds of wildfires are roaring across the state, sparked by thousands of lightning strikes associated with recent storms that lacked any rain.

“We are experiencing fires the likes of which we haven’t seen in many, many years,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said at a Wednesday press conference.

The governor said he has requested out-of-state help to fight the fires.

Northern California’s wine country has been especially hard hit, with 50 structures in the region destroyed from the flames.

The group of fires, burning in between San Francisco and Sacramento, covers more than 46,000 acres and has forced the partial evacuation of the city of Vacaville.

High winds and the state’s record-breaking heat wave, combined with low humidity, has contributed to the fire’s quick spread.

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