Fatal crash grounds key part of firefighting fleet

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The Air Force has grounded air tankers that had been fighting wildfires, as investigators try to determine what caused the deadly crash of a military cargo plane fighting a blaze in South Dakota over the weekend.

The decision to put seven C-130s on "operational hold" removes a third of the firefighting air fleet from the skies during one of the busiest and most destructive wildfire seasons ever to hit the West. Fourteen federally contracted heavy tankers are still flying.

Meanwhile, crews continue to make progress against the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs. More residents have been allowed back home, leaving about 2,000 people still under evacuation orders as of last night. The most fire is now about 70 percent contained.

To the north, the High Park fire, which destroyed 259 homes west of Fort Collins, is fully contained.

Elsewhere, two new fires have broken out on National Forest lands in Utah. Officials have ordered the evacuation of about 100 cabins in the southern part of the state.

In Montana, the 290-square-mile Ash Creek fire jumped a state highway yesterday, triggering evacuations there.

And erratic winds are spreading three large forest fires across Wyoming.

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068-a-09-(Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver, public affairs director, North Carolina Air National Guard, at news conference)-"what they do"-Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver, with the North Carolina Air National Guard, says flying cargo planes to fight wildfires is not an easy task. (3 Jul 2012)

<<CUT *068 (07/03/12)>> 00:09 "what they do"

067-a-11-(Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver, public affairs director, North Carolina Air National Guard, at news conference)-"in the West"-Lieutenant Colonel Robert Carver, with the North Carolina Air National Guard, says using the unit's cargo planes to fight western wildfires is on hold. (3 Jul 2012)

<<CUT *067 (07/03/12)>> 00:11 "in the West"

APPHOTO COEA105: Land is left ravaged by the High Park Fire in the Glacier View residential area near Livermore, Colo., on Monday, July 2, 2012. The last evacuees from the fire in have been allowed to return home as crews fully contained the136-square-mile wildfire that killed one resident and destroyed 259 houses. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO COEA105 (07/02/12)>>

APPHOTO COEA108: A home is left in rubble after being destroyed by the High Park Fire in the Glacier View residential area near Livermore, Colo., on Monday, July 2, 2012. The last evacuees from the fire in have been allowed to return home as crews fully contained the136-square-mile wildfire that killed one resident and destroyed 259 houses. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO COEA108 (07/02/12)>>

APPHOTO COEA101: Martin Jiles looks over the ashes of his home that was destroyed by the High Park Fire in the Glacier View residential area near Livermore, Colo., on Monday, July 2, 2012. The last evacuees from the fire in have been allowed to return home as crews fully contained the136-square-mile wildfire that killed one resident and destroyed 259 houses. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO COEA101 (07/02/12)>>

APPHOTO WYCAS: The Squirrel Creek Fire burns along the ridge line of Sheep Mountain on Monday, July 2, 2012, southwest of Laramie, Wyo. Crews in Wyoming faced erratic winds and dry, fire-fueling conditions Monday as they fought three large forest fires that have forced hundreds of evacuations across the state. (AP Photo/The Casper Star-Tribune, Alan Rogers) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO WYCAS (07/02/12)>>

APPHOTO UTSAL103: Crews battle the Shingle Fire east of Cedar City, Utah, on Monday, July 2, 2012. Evacuations were ordered as the 500-acre wildfire that broke out Sunday threatened about 100 cabins inside Dixie National Forest. In all, 10 wildfires were burning Monday across Utah. (AP Photo/The Deseret News, Scott G Winterton) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO UTSAL103 (07/02/12)>>

APPHOTO UTSAL102: A heavy tanker drops retardant as crews battle the Shingle Fire east of Cedar City, Utah, on Monday, July 2, 2012. Evacuations were ordered as the 500-acre wildfire that broke out Sunday threatened about 100 cabins inside Dixie National Forest. In all, 10 wildfires were burning Monday across Utah. (AP Photo/The Deseret News, Scott G Winterton) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO UTSAL102 (07/02/12)>>

APPHOTO COBO118: A scorched truck sits in the remains of a home destroyed by the Waldo Canyon Fire in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Monday, July 2, 2012. The 28-square-mile wildfire, which has killed two people and destroyed nearly 350 homes, was 70 percent contained on Monday. (AP Photo/Bryan Oller) (2 Jul 2012)

<<APPHOTO COBO118 (07/02/12)>>

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