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Airtanker Crash Investigation Moves Forward

YOSEMITE – The Dog Rock Fire, burning near the west entrance to Yosemite National Park, is now estimated at 210 acres with 0% containment.

Resources continue to arrive on the firelines, and the incident is being turned over to a Type 1 Management Team.

The community of Foresta is still under an evacuation order. Highway 140 remains closed at the west entrance, and is anticipated to remain closed for 24-48 hours due to fire operations and the investigation into the air tanker accident.

All of the other areas of the park remain open. California Highways 41, 120 – Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Pass, as well as the road immediately in the valley remain open.

Smoke will likely be prevalent in El Portal in the morning and in Yosemite Valley in the afternoon.

Power is reportedly out in Yosemite Valley, and will likely remain so throughout the day on Wednesday. Power will be restored as quickly as possible, say officials.

The pilot of an S-2T airtanker out of Holister was killed yesterday when his plane crashed into a mountainside while battling the wildfire. According to a preliminary report from the NTSB, the plane went down after a wing tip struck a tree.

Daniel Berlant, Cal Fire spokesperson, said all other aircraft were grounded as a safety precaution yesterday evening, to allow them to do a safety check and ensure that all aircraft are mission-ready.

The pilot was a 13-year veteran contract pilot for Cal Fire. His name has not yet been released.

Cal Fire has instructed its personnel to shroud their badges and lower flags at all state facilities to half-staff until the conclusion of the memorial service for the fallen pilot.

The S-2T airtanker is manufactured by Grumman Aerospace in Bethpage, New York. These planes were originally owned by the U.S. Navy, and were carrier-based anti-submarine warfare airplanes.

In 1996, CAL FIRE acquired 26 of the S-2E/G planes from the Department of Defense, and converted them to a firefighting configuration, fitting them with modern, powerful turboprop engines. The completely reconditioned S-2Ts are faster, safer, more maneuverable, and carry a larger retardant payload than the S-2A airtankers CAL FIRE had used since the 1970s.

CAL FIRE has 23 S-2T airtankers, and uses them for fast initial attack delivery of fire retardant on wildland fires. They are flown by just one pilot, and carry 1,200 gallons of fire retardant.

The Dog Rock fire was reported at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7. The cause is not known at this time.

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