California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection crews on Saturday located the wreckage of a small plane in a remote canyon near Volcan Mountain in San Diego County, but a brush fire apparently started earlier this week by the crash kept them at bay, authorities said.
Low clouds and gusty winds, as well as danger from the fire, kept search-and-rescue volunteers from guiding Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators to the wreckage, a San Diego County sheriff’s official said.
The fire in a steep canyon was holding at 12 acres and was 90% contained by Saturday afternoon, Cal Fire Capt. Issac Sanchez said. The terrain is so treacherous, the more than 100 firefighters battling the blaze pulled back at sundown and plan to return in the morning.
NTSB investigators hope there will be something in the debris to determine the type of plane and identify it when they get to the site, Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Rylaarsdam said.
Authorities want to determine whether the wreckage is that of a twin-engine Beechcraft Duchess that failed to land at Ramona Airport as expected Thursday.
A Beechcraft with the same tail number as the missing plane is registered to Scandinavian Aviation Academy, also known as SAA, a flight school located at Gillespie Field in El Cajon, according to FAA records.
An FAA spokesman on Saturday said he had no further information about the missing plane or who was onboard.
A 911 caller in Julian reported seeing a plane go down, followed by two explosions, about 8:40 p.m. Thursday, sheriff’s officials said.
Flames could be seen about halfway up Volcan Mountain, but the area was not accessible by ground crews or aircraft that night.
Aircraft worked the fire for a time on Friday, but strong winds and low clouds forced them to be grounded the rest of the day, Sanchez said. The fire has spread slowly because of inclement weather, he said.
Repard writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.