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LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The community is mourning the death of 59-year-old Marc “Thor” Olson, described as a dedicated and experienced pilot who served his country in the U.S. Army and Air Force.

In his last television interview minutes before the crash that killed him, Olson told FOX31 he wanted to make it his mission to find new ways to protect firefighters, residents and property.

Olson said he had been drawn to aviation since childhood.

“I was flying since I was on my mama’s lap,” he said.

Olson was proud to show FOX31 the cockpit of his CO Fire Aviation single-engine tanker as he prepared to make a final run to help fight the Kruger Rock Fire.

“The most important thing is establishing where the guys are on the ground,” he said.

Olson was using night-vision technology as part of a mission years in the making and the first time ever used to fight fires in the United States.

“It is the next level … to support the firefighting, really the whole firefighting industry,” he said.

Olson told FOX31 he was driven to help those in fire-prone zones across the nation.

“A sense of duty, I think personally, not only serving the community but doing it in innovative ways,” he said.

More than 40 years as a pilot

Olson was a decorated Army and Air Force veteran, with more than three decades of service and more than 40 years of experience as a pilot.

News of the crash was devastating to the crew at CO Fire Aviation, which posted a statement saying their “family is deeply saddened by the sudden, tragic loss of one of our brothers serving as a tanker pilot.”

Residents close to firefighters and with homes in the high country say they will never forget Mark “Thor” Olson and what he sacrificed in the name of keeping them safe.

It was something “he was willing to risk his life for, and having an end in such a horrible way,” one local said. “I know everybody’s thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

A procession led by firefighters escorted Olson’s body to Fort Collins.

CO Fire Aviation is asking that his family be provided with privacy and space during this difficult time.