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Body of pilot from downed water bomber recovered

COLD LAKE — The body of a 38-year-old pilot whose plane crashed Friday while fighting wildfires in northern Alberta has been recovered from the scene.

RCMP said the man, whose identity is not being released, was a civilian flying an Air Tractor water bomber under contract to Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) as part of firefighting operations in the area.

He was the sole occupant of the plane that went down just after 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Crews continued fighting an out-of-control wildfire in the area, in the vicinity of Burnt Lake, Alta., near CFB Cold Lake's weapons range and an Imperial Oil facility.

By Saturday afternoon, the blaze had grown to 4,000 hectares.

A spokesman for Conair Aerial Firefighting said the pilot was no stranger to fighting wildfires.

"This was his fourth season, so he was well-experienced," Jeff Berry said, adding the single-seater plane was relatively new, built in 2009.

Though wildfires made it difficult to access the crash site, the man's body was recovered with help from the Department of National Defence Search and Rescue.

Investigtors from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada were headed for the site Saturday.

Premier-designate Rachel Notley said Saturday she was "deeply saddened" to learn of pilot's death.

“On behalf of the Government of Alberta and all Albertans, I offer my deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of the pilot who lost his life protecting our province from a threatening wildfire," she said in a statement.

-- With files from Claire Theobald, Peter Lozinski and Celina Ip

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