Image: California helicopter crash
Mark Crosse  /  AP via The Fresno Bee
Law enforcement personnel survey the site where a California Fish and Game helicopter crashed, caught fire and burned after apparently clipping a power line in Madera County, Calif. on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
updated 1/5/2010 7:03:29 PM ET 2010-01-06T00:03:29

Three California Department of Fish and Game biologists were killed Tuesday in a helicopter crash in Sierra National Forest, and officials fear the pilot has died as well.

The crash occurred south of Redinger Lake after the Bell 206 helicopter struck a power line, Southern California Edison said.

The biologists were conducting routine deer surveys in a remote, wooded area near the border of Fresno and Madera counties.

"This is just such a tragedy," said John Baker, the agency's Central District assistant chief. "I've just started sending out my officers to the residences to make the notifications."

The crash has sparked a fire that has made the site inaccessible, but light winds and moisture slowed the fire's movement, Madera County sheriff's spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.

Harry Morse, a Fish and Game spokesman, said the helicopter belonged to Landells Aviation of Desert Hot Springs.

A woman who answered the phone at Landells confirmed one of its helicopters was involved in the crash but could not provide other details and would not give her name.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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