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Plane crashes amid US wildfires

A military cargo plane has crashed while fighting one of several wildfires ravaging across western United States.

The North Carolina Air National Guard said six crew members were on board when the plane crashed after dropping fire retardant in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Other fires still burning included the largest wildfire in Colorado history.

South Dakota officials told the Rapid City Journal newspaper that three crew members from the crash were taken to a hospital. Military officials would not comment.

A US 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.

Such Air Force C-130s can be equipped to 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.

All eight of the C-130 planes had been dispatched last week to fight Colorado wildfires, including one that killed two people and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado Springs. The fire was 55% contained on Monday, a day after many residents were allowed the first visit to charred homes.

The family of one crew member who was on board the Air National Guard cargo plane later said they had been told he had died.

Relatives of Lt Col Paul Mikeal confirmed they were notified earlier on Monday that he had died in Sunday's crash.

Lt Col Rose Dunlap of the 145th Airlift Wing said six crew members were on board the plane, but could not provide information about their condition. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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