Pilot killed while battling Fresno County fire remembered as a hero

Fresno County search and rescue teams wrapped Fournier in an American flag before removing his body from the crash site after a 6.5-hour recovery mission.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Family and crews held a moment of silence on Thursday to honor the memory of the helicopter pilot who was killed while fighting the Hills Fire in Western Fresno County.

Family members described 52-year-old Michael Fournier as a man who made it a point to put others before himself, something his firefighting efforts can attest to.

"He loved hard. He loved each and every person that came into his life. He loved his family, and he loved the lord," said Leanne, his wife.

RELATED: Helicopter pilot killed while fighting Hills Fire in Fresno County identified

Fighting back tears, Leanne spoke about her best friend and husband of almost 25 years.

"I was a cheerleader and he played football and that's when we met. He's my everything he's been a huge part of my family," she said.

Described as a lover of adventure and the outdoors, Michael Fournier's hobbies included rock climbing, Cross Fit, surfing, and flying.

The veteran pilot was employed by Guardian helicopter that had a 'call when needed' contract with CAL FIRE.

He was flying one of six helicopters working the Hills Fire when tragedy struck.

"He's the definition of pure love and I'm going to forever miss that. I'm going to try my best to teach that to others," said his daughter, Riley Fournier.

A GoFundMe page is more than a quarter of the way to its goal for the sole provider for his family.

After a six and a half hour recovery mission, the body of the husband and father of two was brought home.

Fresno County search and rescue teams wrapped Fournier in an American flag before removing his body from the crash site.

It took a CAL FIRE dozer crew carving out the roadway for the 14-person team to gain access to the wreckage.

Those same crews spent all hours of the night improving road conditions for the federal investigation to begin.

Meanwhile, the Hills Fire continues to rage in Coalinga. As crews try to gain the upper hand in extreme conditions, they mourn the loss of one of their own.

A federal investigation into the crash is underway.

NTSB investigators arrived on Thursday morning.

Though conditions have slightly improved, investigators say it's still going to be challenging to make it to the crash site. It'll likely take 1-2 days to remove the wreckage.

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