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At least one dead in South Dakota wildfire plane crash
At least one person has died after a US military cargo plane crashed while battling a wildfire in South Dakota.
Three others in the six-person crew were taken to hospital, officials said. Other team members are feared dead.
Meanwhile, some evacuation orders were lifted in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where officials said a wildfire was 55% contained after scorching 346 homes.
Wildfires are raging across the region in the states of Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Montana.
The crash victim was named as Lt Col Paul Mikeal, whose family said they were told about his death on Monday morning, the Associated Press news agency reported.
The 42-year-old Lt Col Mikeal was a veteran pilot who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was a married father of two.
His father-in-law, Ronald Partridge, said officials notified them at 02:30 on Monday, adding that only two members of the crew had survived the crash, which happened in South Dakota's Black Hills region.
The military has not confirmed any further deaths, but spokesman Lt Col Robert Carver said: "Obviously there were casualties. We are also thankful there were survivors."
The C-130 crashed after dropping fire retardant in an effort to contain a wildfire. Seven other planes in the fleet have been grounded in the wake of the crash.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said the air crews fighting the wildfires "repeatedly confront dangerous conditions in an effort to give firefighters on the ground a chance to contain these wildfires.
"Americans across the country share my concern for the well-being of the surviving members of the crew and my deep condolences to the families of those who lost their lives."
The emergency management director of Fall River County, Frank Maynard, said the plane crashed in an area of "very, very rugged, straight up and straight down cliffs". He confirmed that rescuers had reached the wreckage.
In Colorado Springs, some residents were allowed to return to their homes temporarily on Sunday to survey the damage in their neighbourhoods.
Renee Sidman, a resident of Mountain Shadows, told the Colorado Springs Gazette of the guilt she felt when she discovered her home was still standing.
"I was just sobbing uncontrollably, even though my house was perfect," she said, adding that the house next door had been reduced to ash and soot.
Another resident, CJ Moore, told the Associated press that she knew from aerial photos that her home had not survived, but found stainless steel kitchenware and a vase lamp in the rubble.
"To find my mail in my mailbox, unscathed. It's just unreal. Unreal," she said.
Officials said 17,827 acres (7,214 ha) of land had been burned in the Waldo Canyon fire that killed two people and surged within the limits of the state's second largest city.
It has been called the most destructive wildfire in Colorado's history.
In other wildfires burning in western US states:
- Utah's largest wildfire has scorched more than 96,000 acres but firefighters say it does not appear to be burning out. One summer home has been destroyed and the fire is 48% contained
- A Montana wildfire that has burned 169,600 acres jumped a motorway overnight, prompting further evacuation notices. There are 10 large wildfires burning in the state
- Evacuations have been ordered about 30 miles (48km) south of the city of Laramie, Wyoming, where a wildfire was said to be growing quickly.
Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2012 BBC
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