The U.S. military on Monday was investigating the crash of an Air Force C-130 airplane in southwestern South Dakota where it was assigned as an airborne tanker fighting a wildfire, the U.S. Air Force said.
The cause of the crash on Sunday evening was not known and the Air Force was not identifying the unit involved or the status of the crew members pending notification of family, Michael Kucharek, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command, said on Monday.
The plane, one of eight based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado equipped with a system that allows it to be converted to an airborne tanker, crashed while supporting efforts to contain the White Draw Fire, the Air Force said.
It was sent to help fight the fire as part of a joint Defense Department and U.S. Forest Service program that provides additional tankers for firefighting when commercial or private air tankers cannot meet the need. All eight tankers have been pressed into firefighting efforts in four states.
The C-130s can discharge 3,000 gallons (11,000 liters) of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, enough to cover an area one-quarter mile long and 100 yards (meters) wide, and can be refilled in 12 minutes.
The White Draw Fire started on Friday afternoon and had consumed about 4,200 acres as of Sunday, said Brian Scott, lead information officer for the incident team.
The fire is about five miles north of Edgemont, South Dakota, which is not threatened, and was about 30 percent contained on Sunday, Scott said.