Paul Hudson

Paul Hudson, of Buckeye, died on a firefighting mission in Australia. 

For months, drought-fueled fires have raged across Australia, scorching millions of acres, destroying thousands of homes and killing 31 people.

One of the losses was a man from Buckeye.

Paul Clyde Hudson, 42, died Thursday, Jan. 22.

According to Coulson Aviation, a Lockheed C-130 with Hudson and two others was loaded with fire retardant on a “firebombing issue.”

The plane crashed in the mountains south of Canberra, the Australian capital.

“We are deeply saddened to confirm there were three fatalities,” said a Coulson Aviation press release.

Ian McBeth, 44, of Great Falls, Montana, and Rick DeMorgan, 43, of Navarre, Florida, also died in the crash.

Based in Canada, Coulson Aviation helped battle last year’s California wildfires. The company has worked in Australia for more than a decade, leasing firefighting planes and helicopters with crews included.

Hudson is survived by his wife, Noreen.

He crammed a great deal of life into his 42 years. According to Coulson, Hudson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1999. He then spent the next 20 years serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in a number of positions, including C-130 pilot.

He retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel “and received many decorations during his career,” according to Coulson.

Hudson also had two master’s degrees, in business administration and information technology.

He was listed as first officer on the fatal flight.

Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at state buildings to be flown at half-mast Friday, in Hudson’s honor.

“First Officer Paul Hudson was a hero who represented Arizona’s very best,” said Ducey.

“When duty called again, First Officer Hudson didn’t hesitate, putting his life on the line to help others battling wildfires in Australia. My sincere condolences go out to First Officer Hudson’s family and loved ones. And our prayers are with them and all Arizona’s firefighters providing aid in Australia.”

According to the company’s website, “Coulson Aviation Australia provides support to the Rural Fire Service of Australia (RFS) with equipment, aircraft, technology, maintenance, and logistics.  

“During this 2019/2020 bush fire season, the RFS has flown over 600 missions in an effort to help firefighters on the ground as they work tirelessly to put out these destructive fires.”