CABAZON—On Sunday, August 6, firefighters were called out to extinguish a brush fire late in the afternoon. The fire was reportedly spreading quickly. Cal Fire responded to the call with two firetrucks and two helicopters. The larger of the two helicopters was a Sikorsky S-64E. It was reportedly used to douse water on the fires while the smaller Bell 407 was used to help the firefighters with logistics. The helicopter’s proximity was approximately 85 miles (137 kilometers) east of Los Angeles when they collided with one another midair.
In a press conference held early on Monday, August 7, Cal Fire Southern Region Chief David Fulcher, indicated that the Sikorsky aircraft landed safely. “Unfortunately, the second helicopter crashed and tragically all three members perished,” Chief Fulcher reported.
Cal Fire has identified the three first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty as Cal Fire Chief, Josh Bischof, 46, Cal Fire Captain, Tim Rodriguez, 44, and a private contracted fire department fire pilot, Tony Sousa, 55.
On Monday, August 7 at 1:09 p.m. on their Twitter page, Cal Fire gave tribute to three fallen responders.
“It is with great sadness that #CALFIRE shares the tragic loss of our employees who crashed in a midair collision yesterday evening while fighting the Broadway Fire in Riverside County. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Assistant Chief Josh Bischof, Fire Captain Tim Rodriguez, and Exclusive Use Helicopter Pilot, Tony Sousa. #LODD.”
David Lam of California Today spoke with a 35-year fire service veteran, Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna, who shared that this area in Cabazon is no stranger to firefighter fatalities. In October 26, 2006, 5 firefighters lost their lives close to the same area.