VALLEJO, Calif., March 28, 2019 – Daniel J. Laird, a helitack captain from the Tahoe National Forest, died Wednesday in a helicopter accident on the Sam Houston National Forest in Montgomery County, Texas.

Laird, 41, was on temporary assignment to the Sam Houston National Forest due to his experience as a long-time helitack member. He became a permanent helitack member in 2003 after serving as a seasonal employee. He is survived by his wife and daughter.

Laird, a 23-year Forest Service employee, was joined by two other crew members on a helicopter assisting a routine controlled burn on the forest when the helicopter went down. The two other crew members were transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The incident is currently under investigation.

“Daniel started as a seasonal firefighter on the Tahoe and worked his way up to Helitack Captain. His passion was in aviation, but he was also known for his ability to lead a strike team of engines or a task force of hand crews and heavy equipment. He was a true leader in every sense. He was dedicated to being an instructor and a believer in the apprentice program, where he helped grow people just like himself. Daniel was originally from Graeagle, CA, and committed his working life to the Forest Service. He was extremely knowledgeable about his craft and loved his job. He had an infectious smile, natural physical talent, and his greatest love of all was his family,” said Randy Moore, Forest Service Region 5 Regional Forester.

“Our hearts and condolences go out to Daniel, his family, friends, and co-workers,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “We’re very proud of his service and commitment to the agency and our nation. Tragedies of this nature serve as a reminder of the honorable work and sacrifices made by women and men like Daniel. They daily commit themselves to supporting and protecting communities around the country.”

Forest Service spokesperson Joe Navratil said, “The USDA Forest Service is providing Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) to Daniel’s co-workers on the Tahoe National Forest and other agency personnel affected by his tragic loss. The CISM consists of critical incident stress debriefing as well as peer-to-peer support. The effort is carried out by a team of professional clinicians and agency employees trained in grief support and with professional oversight. The team will provide care as long as is needed.”

Editor’s note: Our sincere condolences to Daniel’s family, friends and his coworkers on the Tahoe National Forest. Condolence messages can be sent to

Tahoe National Forest Headquarters
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA 95959