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Fallen firefighter pilot remembered

Randy showed enormous confidence in his helicopter flying and displayed the skills to back it up, but the Grants Pass man seemed to know that someday, those might not be enough.

On the front of his 1992 diary, penned that his wife, Linda, and their two children were all I have and asked them to remember him when he was gone.

Everybody knows that helicopter flying is a dangerous occupation, said Pam Schiele, 's sister-in-law. And it sounds like he knew something was going to happen to him someday.

, 44, died Friday when his helicopter crashed while battling a wildfire in northeastern Washington.

— He was alone in the Kaman K-1200 that went down while dropping water on the 2,200-acre McGinnis Flats fire on state-protected wildlands near the town of Keller.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, and it could take as long as six months to determine what caused the helicopter to go down.

, who flew for Superior Helicopter LLC of Grants Pass for the past seven years, was the first person killed fighting a wildfire this year in Washington or Oregon. His death came three days after two firefighters in Idaho were killed when they were overrun by flames in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

He loved to fly, and he loved the excitement and adrenaline of fires, said Schiele, of Springfield. He was willing to accept all those risks. It was something he needed to do.

Schiele described as a complex and somewhat spiritual man who parlayed his love of flying into worldwide adventures that pitted his zest for excitement against his homebody, family-man nature.

He would regularly fly for three straight weeks, with jobs ranging from high-line logging locally to dam-building expeditions in New Guinea to supporting oil exploration in South America.

With more than 9,500 hours of flying experience over 20 years, honed his skills on several continents working on myriad projects, but dangling a bucket of water over a wildfire hot-spot was one of his specialties.

He was so skilled that he was one of only a few people allowed to fly to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to dip water from the (Colorado) river, Schiele said.

Out of the cockpit, the Lakeview native wore cowboy clothes and rode horses when he wasn't tinkering with classic cars. He lifted weights religiously, dabbled in woodworking and designed the modified A-frame home his family has lived in off New Hope Road since the late 1990s, Schiele said.

A longtime prankster with a soft spot for kids, was the kind of father who dressed up while trick-or-treating with daughter Cassandra, now 20, and son Logan, now 18. Before trips to places like Burma and Taiwan, he scoured the kids' toy boxes and hauled the excess to needy kids in those faraway places, Schiele said.

But he could be tough as nails. Once, when a carpet business wouldn't make good on what saw as shoddy work, he picketed the store every day for a week before the company gave in, Schiele said.

He developed his spiritual, contemplative side after flying as a spotter for the tuna fleet in Mexico and wore a cross daily, Schiele said.

Family members moved to Grants Pass just to be near him, Schiele said. He was their pillar.

A memorial service was scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Apostolic Faith Church in Grants Pass.

The Associated Presscontributed to this report.

Harmon