- Associated Press - Sunday, August 1, 2010

VICTORIA, British Columbia (AP) — Search-and-rescue teams were trying Sunday to reach the site where a Canadian waterbombing plane crashed while fighting a wildfire.

The wildfire and steep terrain kept rescue workers from reaching the crash site after the plane went down Saturday night about 100 miles northeast of Vancouver.

The plane was carrying two crew members and their fate was unknown, the Royal Canadian Mounted Pollice said.

“Witnesses reported seeing the plane drop from the sky and seeing it crash,” Dan Moskaluk of the RCMP said Sunday.

The plane was chartered by the provincial government from Conair in Abbotsford, British Columbia, to battle wildfires about 11 miles south of Lytton. 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 yards of the crash site but had to turn back because a fire was raging through the steep terrain, Mr. Moskaluk said.

Coast Guard officer Matt Thirkell, who is with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center in Victoria, said Sunday that the fire at the crash site is still thought to be burning.

“At this point ground search and rescue teams are being organized on scene to attempt to access the crash location,” he said. “We should be able to get a sense of the condition of the aircraft and if there’s any probability of finding survivors.”

As of Saturday, 318 forest fires were burning across British Columbia, with the largest covering 10 square miles.

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.

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

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada was expected to send crash investigators to the site.

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