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.

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

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.

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.

Among the fires elsewhere in the West:

Utah: Fire commanders say Utah's largest wildfire has consumed more than 150 square miles and shows no sign of burning itself out. Hundreds of firefighters are trying to hold the Clay Springs fire from advancing on the ranching towns of Scipio and Mills on the edge of Utah's west desert. The fire has destroyed one summer home and threatens 75 others. The fire was 48 percent contained on Sunday.

Montana: More evacuation notices have been issued in the southeastern part of the state after a 265-square-mile wildfire jumped a highway overnight and was spreading to the southeast Monday. The state has 10 large wildfires, more than any other state.

Wyoming: Late Sunday night, authorities called for evacuations in an area of southern Albany County where a fast-growing wildfire was burning. The area is about 30 miles southwest of Laramie in the Medicine Bow National Forest area. It wasn't immediately clear how many residences are affected. The blaze is one of several burning through parched forest lands in Wyoming.

Idaho: Firefighters in eastern Idaho had the 1,038-acre Charlotte fire 80 percent contained Sunday but remained cautious with a forecast of high winds and hot temperatures that could put hundreds of homes at risk.

Nevada: More than 300 firefighters are battling a wildfire in a remote area of eastern Nevada. The 7,000 acre Egan Fire was burning about 9 miles south of the small town of Lund in the South Egan Wilderness.

New Mexico: A wildfire burning on the western border of Carlsbad Caverns National Park has grown to 5,000 acres. Officials said the fire is about five miles southeast of Queen and about a mile from the Carlsbad Caverns National Park boundary.

IN PICTURES: Wildfires sweeping the west


Elliott reported from Denver. Associated Press writers Paul Foy in Salt Lake City, Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, and Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, N.D., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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