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Incident Name: 630-acre fire on the Sequoia National Forest
Date:  08/23/63
Personnel: Robert Savaria
Age: 45
Agency/Organization:  Ranchers Inc of Fresno under contract with either the Department of Interior or the US Forest Service
Position: aerial firefighter


Robert Savaria was flying a WWII P-61B Black Widow bomber that had been converted into a "borate bomber", what is now called an air tanker. On August 23, he had four successful runs, dropping on a 630 acre brush and grass fire on the edge of the Tule Indian Reservation and the Sequoia National Forest. He was on his fifth borate run of the day when the fatal accident occurred.


Robert Savaria's P-61 Robert Savaria's P-61

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15 mi east of Porterville in the Gibson Creek area of the Sequoia National Forest on the edge of the Tule River Indian Reservation, marked by the pin.


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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, AAP and research by Tom Janney:
    • 8/23/1963, E-53
    • 1 killed: Robert Savaria
    • Operator: Ranchers Inc of Fresno, CA
    • Type: Northrup P-61B Black Widow
    • Location: 15 mi east of Porterville, CA
    • FAA Registration # N(X)30020
    • NTSB # None
  • National Transportation Safety Board: reports only go back to 1960 and after that they can be missing.
  • To see for yourself, consult the NTSB online lookup Utility
  • News the day after, on August 24, 1963
Robert Savaria Media, day after Robert Savaria Media, day after
Savaria's P-61 Savaria's P-61
  • Summary:



    1600-gallon retardant capacity

    Owned and flown by Robert Savaria of Idaho

    P-61B-1NO had been bailed to Northrop during most of its military career, who then bought the aircraft from the government at the end of the war. Having the civilian registration number NX30020 assigned to it, it was used as an executive transport, as a flight-test chase plane, and for tests with advanced navigational equipment. Later it was purchased by the Jack Ammann Photogrammetric Engineers, a photo-mapping company based in Texas.

    In 1963, it was sold to an aerial tanker company Ranchers, Inc., and used for fighting forest fires. However, it crashed East of Porterville, CA while fighting a fire on the Tule River Indian Reservation on 23 August 1963, killing Savaria.

    Serial #: 42-39419

    Construction #:

    Civil Registration: N(X)30020

    Model(s): P-61B Black Widow

  • California Death Index: Robert Savaria

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Media Articles and Reports




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Photos, Videos, & Tributes




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Contributors to this article: Tom Janney,

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