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Incident Name: Ciervo brush fire on the Morongo Indian Reservation that was flaring up, fanned by hot Santa Ana winds
Date:  6/8/1979
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization: Denny Conner was a US Forest Service contract tanker pilot, assigned to BDF, ordered up to CDF RRU fire in Millard Canyon.
Position: aerial firefighters


Denny Lydell Conner, 44, Forest Service or CDF pilot out of of Ramona, CA
Richard Mervin Ray, 50, co-pilot of Chico, CA

On June 8, 1979, Pilot Denny Connor and Co-pilot Dick Ray were killed when the right wing of their  C-119 airtanker separated during a retardant drop and plunged to earth in Millard Canyon. They were making a drop over the Ciervo brush fire (near Banning CA) on the Morongo Indian Reservation.

Photo of Hawkins & Powers Tanker 133, compliments of Tom Janney.

Tanker 133 Tanker 133

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Millard Canyon on the Morongo Indian Reservation, near Banning CA

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the AAP and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 6/8/1979
    • 2 killed: Denny Conner & Dick Ray
    • Operator: Hawkins & Powers
    • Type: Fairchild C-119
    • Location: Millard Canyon near Riverside, CA
    • FAA Registration # unknown
    • NTSB # no record
  • There is no record in the NTSB database
  • There is no record in the Forest Service Fatal Aviation Accident History, possibly because it was CDF jurisdiction
  • Article naming the crash victims:

    Denny Conner & Dick Ray Denny Conner & Dick Ray

  • California Death Index: Dennis Lydell Conner | Richard Mervin Ray


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Media Articles and Reports

  • Firefighters win battle with grassland blazes

    6/9/1979 | Lodi News Sentinel archive

    ... The blaze, called the Ciervo fire, was started Thursday (6/7/1979) by the hot exhaust from a pickup truck in grass and light brush in 100-degree weather. The truck driver was unable to extinguish the fire by turning up dirt with a shovel, and 50 mile-an-hour winds whipped it up quickly. Fast moving flames eventually surrounded seven shepherds who saved their lives by crawling under a tarpaulin. An aerial tanker bombed them with retardant chemicals and the fire burned over them, leaving them hot and frightened but uninjured...


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Photos, Videos, & Tributes


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Contributors to this article: Tom Janney, John Miller

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