A C-130 Hercules plane, reportedly from a Charlotte-based Air National Guard unit, crashed late Sunday night while helping battle a wildfire in southwest South Dakota, according to U.S. military officials.
The Associated Press, quoting military officials, said the plane was from the N.C. Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing.
Officials with the Air National Guard called a midday news conference in Charlotte to discuss the situation.
According to military and law enforcement personnel in South Dakota, rescuers took three survivors to a hospital in Rapid City, S.D. The C-130 typically carries a crew of six.
The Air Force would only confirm that one of its Air National Guard planes crashed while fighting a wildfire.
The 145th Airlift Wing is operating two C-130 aircraft at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, as part of the military's effort to help the U.S. Forest Service in battling wildfires that have burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The two planes from the Charlotte unit flew to the Colorado base Saturday. A spokesman for the 145th Airlift Wing said its two aircraft were scheduled to move Monday to a base in Wyoming, so they could be closer to the scene of the fire.
The plane that crashed Sunday night was making its second run of the day in fighting the White Draw fire, which has charred more than 4,200 acres in an area about 90 miles southwest of Rapid City. Officials said the aircraft disappeared from radar sometime Sunday evening. Details of the crash were not available, but the sheriff's office in Fall River County, S.D., told the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal that a rescue helicopter had been able to land near the crash scene.
That helicopter took three survivors to Rapid City Regional Airport, the sheriff's office said.
The Charlotte-based Air National Guard crews are helping the Colorado, Wyoming and California national guard units in battling the Waldo Canyon and Flagstaff fires in Colorado; the Arapaho fire in Wyoming; and the White Draw blaze.
The planes are carrying the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a self-contained firefighting system owned by the Forest Service. MAFFS can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in a matter of seconds, and the system can be refilled in 12 minutes. The C-130's have been making multiple flights in recent days for the Forest Service.