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Air Force C-130 crashes while fighting wildfire

An Air Force C-130 crashed will dropping fire retardant on a wildfire in South Dakota. Six crew members were on board the C-130, but no official word on casualties.

By Dan Elliott and Mead GruverAssociated Press / July 2, 2012

An Air Force C-130 drops fire retardant on a section of the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Another C-130 crashed near the Black Hills of South Dakota while fighting a wildfire Sunday. Three of the six crew members were reportedly hospitalized.

REUTERS/Thomas J. Doscher/U.S. Air Force photo/Handout

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Colorado Springs, Colo.

An Air Force cargo plane has crashed while fighting a wildfire in the Black Hills of South Dakota, but there's no official word on death or injuries, authorities said Monday.

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The C-130 plane crashed as it was dropping fire retardant Sunday, according to the U.S. Northern Command, the military operation that is responsible for putting the Air Force firefighting planes into service.

David Eaker of the Great Basin Incident Management Team said six people were aboard. No other information has been released, including the plane's home base.

IN PICTURES: Wildfires sweeping the west

Fall River County, S.D., sheriff's officials told the Rapid City Journal three crew members were taken to a hospital. Military officials said they could not comment.

A U.S. Forest Service official in Colorado offered sympathy to the crew members' families.

"We grieve your loss this morning along with you," said Jerri Marr, supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, where some C-130s were fighting a wildfire last week. She didn't elaborate.

Eight Air Force C-130s can be equipped to drop water or fire retardant. They're flown by Air Force National Guard units at Port Hueneme, Calif., Charlotte, N.C., and Cheyenne, Wyo., and a Reserve unit in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The planes can be fitted with a system of tanks and pipes called the Modular Airborne Firefighting System or MAFFS. It can drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in seconds.

The planes can be activated for firefighting duty if the rest of the private and government firefighting fleet is in use or unavailable. When on firefighting duty, the planes are under Northern Command, which is responsible for defending the U.S. and assisting civilian authorities in emergencies.

All eight had been dispatched to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs last week to fight Colorado wildfires, including the 28-square-mile Waldo Canyon Fire. That fire killed two people and destroyed nearly 350 houses. The fire was 55 percent contained.

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