Special Sections : Canyon Fire

Monday, Sep 05 2011 02:45 PM

Tehachapi man was first on scene of plane crash

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Old West Ranch property owner George Plesko was the first person on the scene of the Sept. 4 plane crash that touched off the Canyon Fire. Plesko found the plane broken up and on fire when he arrived from his neighboring property. This is one of several photos he took with his cell phone camera, showing parts of the plane and a touch of burned grass before the larger fire erupted.

A piece of the Cessna 210 that broke off when the plane crashed on the Old West Ranch southeast of Tehachapi on Sept. 4. Property owner George Plesko was the first person on the scene. He found the plane broken up and on fire when he arrived from his neighboring property. This is one of several photos he took with his cell phone camera.

The Cessna 210 that crashed on the Old West Ranch set off a fire that continues to burn out of control south of the City of Tehachapi. The crash was on property near that owned by George Plesko who took the picture of the burning plane shown here. This is one of several photos he took with his cell phone camera.

All that is left of a mobile home on the Old West Ranch. Photo was taken mid-day on Monday, Sept.5. Photo by Nick Smirnoff.

A tour of Old West Ranch mid-day Monday, Sept. 5, revealed devastation and surprises. This mobile home survived while one on each side burned to the ground. Photo by Nick Smirnoff.

Curiously, a birdhouse survived the fire that swept through this section of Old West Ranch on Sept. 4. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

Inmate firefighters from Mountain Home Conservation Camp head in to the Canyon Fire burn area Monday morning, Sept. 5. Water and retardant drops the previous day cooled the ground down enough to allow hand crews to go in to cut firelines in an attempt to contain the fire. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

A burning tree limb on the Old West Ranch, mid-day Monday, Sept. 5. Firefighting crews are watching for hot spots like this so they can be extinguished to avoid the wind flowing the fire into an unburned area. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

The Salvation Army set up near the fireline along Dennison Road soon after firefighters began responding to the Canyon Fire. Pictured are volunteers, Old West Ranch residents and friends, and emergency personnel and others. Photo by Nick Smirnoff

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.

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