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Firefighting plane crashes in Canada

world Updated: Aug 02, 2010 07:42 IST

A wildfire in British Columbia has prevented a search and rescue team from reaching a Canadian waterbombing plane that crashed while fighting the blaze, officials said on Sunday.

The plane, which went down on Saturday night, was carrying two crew members and their fate was unknown, officials said.

"Witnesses reported seeing the plane drop from the sky and seeing it crash," Dan Moskaluk of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said on Sunday.

The plane was chartered by the provincial government from Conair in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Conair had a second plane shadowing the one that crashed and was able to pinpoint the location of the site.

The first rescue crew to reach the scene got within 500 meters (yards) of the crash site but had to turn back because a fire was raging through the steep terrain, Moskaluk said.

As of Saturday, 318 forest fires were burning across British Columbia, with the largest covering 25 square kilometres.

Air tankers along with helicopters and heavy machinery were supporting as many as 1,000 firefighters on the ground. Residents were under evacuation orders or an alert in six parts of the Kamloops area and the Cariboo region.

Due to dry conditions across the region, a campfire ban extended to about 70 per cent of the province, with violators facing potential fines and jail sentences.