Air Tanker Crashes Fighting Utah Wildfire

A single-engine air tanker battling a wildfire in southern Utah crashed Thursday evening, killing the pilot.

The small plane had been flying above a fire about 15 miles north of St. George (search) when it went down about 6 p.m., Bureau of Land Management (search) spokesman Wendell Peacock said. Television footage showed the aircraft burning on the ground.

The pilot's name was not immediately released and the cause of the crash was still being investigated.

The plane was basically a crop duster retrofitted to drop water, retardant or seed, Peacock said. It was not one of the larger, multiengine air tankers that the government grounded after a number of fatal crashes.

Peacock said that the 3,660-acre Dammeron Complex (search) fire was expected to be contained, or surrounded, by Saturday. The blaze comprised two lightning-caused fires that had burned into each other.

In western New Mexico's Zuni Mountains, an 8,400-acre wildfire was 40 percent contained.

Fire information officer Jim Whittington said Thursday that three juveniles admitted starting the Sedgwick Fire as they tried to put out a campfire in a restricted area.

The youngsters told investigators they put out the campfire using water, sand and a stick, then rested the stick against a tree, Whittington said. The hot tip of the stick apparently fell off into a clump of pine needles, starting the blaze, he said.

Authorities were not releasing the names or ages of the three, who have not been charged, Whittington said.

Meanwhile, the Peppin Fire, which has burned 64,488 acres and a dozen cabins in south-central New Mexico since it was sparked by lightning last month, was 95 percent contained and was expected to be fully contained by Sunday.