The pilot who died in a tanker crash while helping with the Schill Fire near Emmett is being remembered for his experience as a pilot — and helping to raise orphaned kittens.
Ricky Fulton, 58, died in the crash around 7 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Idaho Fire Information. Fulton was in his first year flying for Aero SEAT Inc. of Colorado, but was known for his skills and experience of decades as a pilot, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
He will also be remembered for his love of kittens and willingness to raise five orphaned kittens.
When Vale Air Attack Officer Mike Spelmen found himself with a litter of orphaned kittens, he brought them to work and asked for advice, according to BLM. While everyone lent a hand, Fulton quickly became the kitten's favorite.
“Ricky adored them, and they adored Ricky,” said Mary LaMoy, a fellow contract pilot who works for Spur Aviation out of Twin Falls, Idaho in a news release. “They would climb up his pantlegs and hang on his neck.”
When the runt of the litter finally ate canned cat food, Fulton was so excited he texted pictures to anyone who wasn't there to share, according to BLM.
“We all called him the Kitty Whisperer,” Mary said. “He’d look embarrassed, but I think he really loved it.”
Mary adopted the kitten, naming it Ricky in his honor after the accident. Two of the kittens were adopted by a local veterinarian and the last two are being cared for at the Simply Cats Adoption Center in Boise. The Center plans to waive the normal surrender fees and hopes to organize a fundraiser in Fulton's memory, according to BLM.
"His care for all around him –human as well as feline -- even temperament, dry sense of humor and addiction to Coke floats endeared him to everyone," Mary said. “You meet so many different personalities and types of people working at a tanker base, somebody who’s just well-regarded by everybody, that’s pretty cool."