Photo: Twitter

Cape Town - A Working on Fire helicopter pilot that crashed during firefighting operations near Riversdale on Tuesday has been identified.

Captain Malcolm Pojie confirmed that the 65-year-old Nico Heyns was killed in a crash in the Vermaaklikheid area, about 40km from Riversdale, at around 9.50am.

News24 reported that Heyns was well known in the aviation world and often went above and beyond the call of duty.

He was lauded for his heroics in 2016 when he tirelessly worked for two days to stop fires that had threatened parts of the holiday towns of St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis. 

Heyns also played a crucial role in preventing the blaze from reaching the Sea Vista informal settlement by scooping water from residents' swimming pools.

Patrick Hall, who flew with Heyns for many hours, shared on Facebook that they were saying goodbye "to a legend that saved many lives and property, a man that never gave up until the end".

Trevor Abrahams, the chairperson of Kishugu Aviation, said it was one of the company's Huey helicopters that had crashed.

"At this point in time we have no information as to the cause of the accident," Abrahams told News24. 

He said the Civil Aviation Authority was on their way to the site and the pilot's family was receiving counselling.

Vermaaklikheid falls in the Hessequa municipal boundary and is between Knysna and Hermanus.

The Western Cape fire services have already deployed resources from the Overberg region to the area to assist with the blaze, according to Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell.

The Garden Route District Municipality posted on Facebook that the fire at Vermaaklikheid was burning on the eastern and western flank of Duiwenhoks River. 

The western flank was contained on Tuesday morning and mopping up is being conducted by local volunteers and Enviro Volunteer Wildfire Services. 

However, the eastern flank was the main concern, with firefighters on the ground and in the air battling flames on a 3.5km line, trying to prevent it from jumping the Puintjie/Blombos road. So far seven homes have been destroyed as well as multiple smaller structures.