A Tehachapi man who was first on the scene of Sunday's plane crash on the Old West Ranch suffered burns as he tried to put out the fire.
George Plesko lost his home on the Old West Ranch during the devastating 2010 West Fire. He lives now in Stallion Springs, but was doing work on his property Sunday morning when he saw the 210 Cessna go overhead and disappear behind a ridge. He said he expected to see it rise up again, but instead realized it had crashed and started running toward a neighboring 20-acre parcels where he discovered the downed aircraft already in flames.
Plesko had a cell phone with him and called in the report of the crash and fire, then tried to stamp out the grass fire with his feet. He was wearing only flip-flops, no match for the steadily growing fire.
He said it took him several minutes to run to the fire and he then went to open a gate and waited about 15 minutes before the first firefighters arrived; by then, Plesko estimates, the plan had been down about a half hour.
Firefighters wanted to send him to the hospital by ambulance, but Plesko didn't realize the extent of his injuries and went instead to his property. Eventually he drove himself to Tehachapi Hospital where he said he was treated for smoke inhalation and burns to his feet and legs.
Some Old West Ranch residents began to return to their property Monday afternoon, many finding devastation.
Plesko took photos of the burning plane, some are published with this story. Two Southern California men, one of them with ties to the Tehachapi area, died in the crash. Further details have not been released pending notification of next of kin.
Early Monday the Kern County Fire Dept. announced that one structure was confirmed destroyed in the fire. Photographer Nick Smirnoff, whose photos are published here, observed two mobile homes destroyed -- with another between them apparently undisturbed.
There have been unconfimred reports of 12-15 structures destroyed, as well as motor homes, travel trailers and vehicles.
Firefighters continue to battle the blaze which is expected to turn over to CalFire command sometime Monday afternoon, Sept. 5.
See other stories published at www.tehachapinews.com for more details about the plane crash, fire, and firefighting effort.