A C-130 drops it's cargo of fire retardant on fires in Colorado (Getty)
(CNN/USA Today/AP) -- The U.S. Air Force is grounding all firefighting-equipped C-130 planes after one crashed while helping subdue a blaze Sunday in southwest South Dakota, said a military spokesman.
Air Force spokesman Todd Spitler announced that C-130s that have the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, won't fly until further notice. The South Dakota crash follows a similar one, along the Nevada-Utah border, several weeks earlier.
The Air Force describes MAFFS as "a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100-feet wide."
The decision came hours after a C-130 tanker crashed around 6:30 p.m. CT (7:30 p.m. ET) while fighting the so-called White Draw Fire burning near Edgemont, South Dakota, the military said.
The Air Force says some crewmembers died in the crash of the C-130 aircraft while battling a wildfire in southwestern South Dakota Sunday night. Military officials say the plane crashed after dropping fire retardant in the Black Hills.
Three of the six crewmembers were hospitalized, the Rapid City Journal reports. No specifics yet as to the exact number of dead and injured.
The plane was attached to the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N.C.
"There were casualties, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were injured and those who lost their lives," the Air Force said in a release. "The family members of these Airmen are especially on our minds. We will provide further details on the status of the casualties soon."
President Barack Obama is expressing condolences to families of the North Carolina Air National Guard crew members who died the crash Sunday.
Obama said in a statement Monday the incident was still under investigation and offered no details about the circumstances of the crash.
He voiced concern for the well-being of survivors.
The crash occurred two days after Obama visited the scene of wildfire damage in Colorado.
In his statement Monday, Obama praised those battling fires across the West, saying they were putting their lives on the line every day for their fellow Americans.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The wildfire has scorched 4,200 acres since it began Friday, according to InciWeb, a multistate fire response website. The fire, which is being fueled by dry brush and trees, is 30% contained. No homes were threatened, InciWeb reported.
The wildfire is one of many burning in western states, including Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and Arizona.
It was the second time within two months that an air tanker has crashed.
An air tanker crashed in mountainous terrain in western Utah on June 3, killing two pilots, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear what type of tanker -- which was owned by Neptune Aviation Services of Missoula, Montana -- that was. But Carver said Monday that there had been no crashes of firefighting-equipped C-130s until Sunday.
The tanker was on its second run of the day fighting the White Rock Fire along the Nevada-Utah border. That fire, which began June 1, was 100% contained on June 9, fire officials said.