Three crew members escaped a burning air tanker that was carrying about 150,000 pounds of fuel when it skidded off a runway at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu.
The Boeing 707 tanker burst into flames Wednesday as it took off, an air base spokeswoman said.
Images from the NBC4 LA news helicopter showed thick black smoke and flames pouring from the light-colored aircraft after it slid off the runway at about 5:25 p.m. The three on board, all civilian employees, escaped with minor injuries, air station spokeswoman Terry Reid.
The wreckage burned for about three hours.
Reid said the plane is operated by Alexandria, Va.-based-Omega Aerial Refueling Services, Inc., which contracts with the Navy to provide fleet operations support and fuel transport services.
Omega president W. Stewart Orr declined comment when reached by phone.
A helicopter dumped several loads of water on the plane, with little immediately discernible effect. Thirteen emergency units initially responded to the fire.
Firefighters on the ground appeared to be letting the fire burn but were dousing the area around the tanker. The stricken plane came to a rest within a few hundred feet of the Pacific Ocean, but Reid said none of the fuel seeped into the ocean.
It's not known where the tanker was headed at the time of the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the cause of the crash.
Point Mugu Naval Air Station is in Ventura County and about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Officials cautioned that the smoke from the fire was partially toxic and encouraged nearby residents to stay inside and keep doors and windows closed, Reid said.