A resident of Julian reported seeing an aircraft apparently plunging to the ground northeast of the tourist destination highland town about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, according to sheriff’s officials. Less than 30 minutes later, authorities got word of a small brush fire in the Ranchita area, Lt. Amber Baggs said.
A sheriff’s helicopter crew was unable to find any plane wreckage in the darkness, and firefighters had to wait until morning to make their way to the remote canyon where the blaze was burning. By the time they reached the site shortly after sunrise, the flames had spread over about 10 acres, according to Cal Fire.
The fire posed no structural threats, the state agency reported.
About 9:30 a.m., firefighters found aircraft wreckage in the burn zone, Baggs said. There was no immediate word on the condition of whoever was aboard the aircraft when it went down.
As of 5 p.m., the burn area had grown to roughly 12 acres and was about 30 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. Crews working to put out the blaze “continue(d) to be challenged by the steep terrain,” the agency reported.
The destroyed airplane remained unidentified late Friday afternoon, though a twin-engine Beechcraft Duchess was reported overdue Thursday night when it failed to land at Ramona Airport when expected, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We do not know where the aircraft is,” FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said at midday.
The missing plane is registered to a flight school that operates out of Gillespie Field airport in El Cajon, according to an online aircraft registration roster.
–City News Service