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Incident Name:  fire east of Hopland, CA
Date:  August 31, 1974, 1355 hrs
Personnel:  William "Bill" Benedict, a resident of La Mesa AZ but living in Redwood Valley while working for Sis-Q
Age:  56
Agency/Organization:  Sis-Q Flying Service (owned by Bud Davis), Montague/Santa Rosa, CA, under contract with CDF (now CAL FIRE)
Position:  Pilot

Summary: On August 31, 1974, Bill Benedict was piloting Tanker E-31, a Grummon F7F, flying out of the Ukiah Airport to a fire near Hopland. He was attempting to drop retardant over the fire nine miles east of Hopland when he apparently flew too low and hit three oak trees. Bill Benedict perished when his plane impacted the ground, creating a severe ground fire.

This photo of Tanker E-31 was taken at Ukiah Air Attack Base, Aug 1972. It was piloted at that time by Harry Chaffy. Photo compliments of Leroy Zwicky.

Tanker E-31, Grummon F7F Tanker E-31, Grummon F7F

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Maps

approximate location 9 mi east of Hopland CA

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/1/74 Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 9/1/74
  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, USFS, AAP, and research by the WLF Staff:
    • August 31, 1974 - Tanker E-31
    • 1 killed: Bill Benedict
    • Sis-Q Flying Service under contract with CDF (now CAL FIRE)
    • GRUMMAN F7F-3
    • collided with trees near Hopland, CA
    • Registration tail number: N6177C
    • NTSB # OAK75FVD10
  • NTSB: Probable Cause (html)
    • Probable Cause(s)

      Pilot in Command - Failed to see and avoid objects or obstructions

    • Factor(s)

      Terrain - High Obstructions

      Severe ground fire followed impact

  • For more information, in case it becomes available, consult the NTSB Lookup Utility, use NTSB # OAK75FVD10
  • From FedFire, "according to the Warbird Registry, the Grumman F7F Tigercat flown as N6177C Tanker 31 crashed in 1974. The registry has is a color photo and more information. History: S.V. Flying Service, Montague, CA, 1963; Registered as N6177C; Sis-Q Flying Service, Montague/Santa Rosa, CA, 1963-1974; Flew as tanker #E31; Crashed and destroyed, Ukiah, CA, Aug. 31, 1974.

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

  • Hotlist thread on the research: 8/26/11

 

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • The article of 12/28/74 states this is the first complaint brought by CDF (now CAL FIRE) against an alleged arsonist whose action (starting the fire) resulted in a wildland firefighter's death.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/28/74 Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/28/74
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/28/74 Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/28/74
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/28/74 Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 12/28/74

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

 

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Contributors to this article: Chris Anderson for the old news articles, FedFire, Leroy Zwicky for the photo of E-31.

 

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