VENTURA, Calif. -- A Boeing 707 military tanker plane crashed and burst into flames Wednesday as it took off from Point Mugu Naval Air Station in Southern California, injuring the three people on board, an air base spokeswoman said.

Broadcast reports showed thick black smoke and flames pouring from the light-colored aircraft after it went down at 5:25 p.m. and slid off a runway. The three on board escaped with minor injuries, air station spokeswoman Terry Reid told KCAL-TV.

She said the tanker is used for fleet operations support and transporting fuel.

A helicopter dumped several loads of water on the plane, with little immediately discernible effect.Firefighters on the ground appeared to be letting the fire burn but were dousing the area around the tanker. The stricken plane came to a rest within a few hundred feet of the Pacific Ocean, though it was not clear if any fuel had gone into the ocean.

It's not known where the tanker was headed at the time of the crash.

Point Mugu Naval Air Station is in Ventura County and about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.