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The wreckage of a plane that crashed this morning into Hamlin Canyon,... (Bill Husa/Staff Photo)
PARADISE -- Two people died in a plane crash Tuesday morning south of Neal Road that triggered a vegetation fire.
PG&E spokeswoman Jan Morris said Tuesday evening that the aircraft was an AA Aerial Services and Frontine Energy scout plane doing contract work for PG&E.
The plane was doing routine patrol from the air on a natural gas transmission pipeline located in the area.
The crash about 11:30 a.m. was in Hamlin Canyon, about six miles southwest of Paradise, according to Cal Fire-Butte County.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Haile said the plane was completely gone due to the fire by the time his crew got down to it.
"The pilot was killed and we have no idea who he was; what the airplane was, we have no information on that," Haile said.
Morris said PG&E's prayers are with the families of the victims.
The plane was identified as possibly a "small two-seater aircraft" by Cal Fire Deputy Fire Marshal Matt Damon.
The FAA did not have any identification on the crashed plane or the occupants inside as of deadline Tuesday.
The circumstances of the crash are unknown as well, FAA public affairs manager Ian Gregor said.
"Firefighters were going in to the crash site on ATVs earlier in the afternoon to try to get a data tag or N-number off the plane," he wrote in an email.
The fire burned up the canyon toward Neal Road, sending smoke billowing up into the air. Neal Road was closed for a while.
By 3 p.m. the fire was contained at 21 acres. It did not threaten any homes. Six engines, four water trucks, a bulldozer and four hand crews fought the fire on the ground. Two air tankers, a helicopter and a spotter plane assisted from above.
Bob Smalley, 50, of Paradise, witnessed the plane crash, and was the first to call 9-1-1 and report it, he said.
"I was coming north on 99 and saw a plane kind of circling around off to the right," Smalley said. "Then I saw it do just a spiral straight down and I was shocked because planes don't do that. No more than a minute or so after I saw the smoke."
He did not recognize the plane. He said it was red or orange and white and was a smaller plane.
Officials do not have any lead on whose plane it was, Haile said. The Chico, Paradise and Oroville airports have confirmed the plane was not based at those sites.