Monday, July 2, 2012

Military plane crashes while battling SD wildfire

Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards / USAF via Reuters

There are eight so-called Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) planes in the U.S. One of them crashed in South Dakota on Sunday.

By NBC News and staff

Updated at 7:55 a.m. ET: A military plane crashed while battling a wildfire?in southwest South Dakota on Sunday night, authorities said. Three crew members were?hospitalized, according to a newspaper report.?

A helicopter landed near the crash site?and took the trio to Custer to be transported by ambulance to Rapid City Regional Hospital for treatment, The Rapid City Journal reported.

The?United States Northern Command?would not confirm the number of crew members?aboard or comment on casualties.

"The cause of the crash is not known and the incident is under investigation. There are no details on the status of the aircrew available at this time," a military statement added.?

The aircraft?went down?at around 6 p.m. local time?(8 p.m. ET), the military said.

"Our number one priority right now is taking care of the crew," said?Pat Cross, a?spokesman handling information for the White Draw fire,?according to?NBC station KNBN.


The worst fire season in recent history is taking its toll with large fires burning thousands of acres in Colorado while others consume areas in Montana, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The C-130 that went down is a military plane refashioned to fight fires. It is one?of?eight so-called Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System?(MAFFS)?planes in the country.?

Bringing together the Department of Defense and U.S. Forest Service program, MAFFS aircraft provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private airtankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the Forest Service.

Residents tour Colorado blaze devastation

The plane disappeared from radar contact earlier on Sunday, Dakota Fire information spokeswoman Julie Molzahn told the Journal.?

Residents, forced to evacuate their homes in path of the Waldo Canyon blaze in Colorado Springs, return to find only burned-out remains of their communities. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

Around 180 people were fighting the fire, which had spread to 4,200 acres and was 30 percent contained, the newspaper added. Workers are battling the blaze with the help of four helicopters and three air tankers, it reported.

Firefighters are facing additional hazards including steep terrain and rattlesnakes, officials told KNBN.?'s F. Brinley Bruton and NBC station KNBN contributed to this report.

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