An airtanker plane engaged in fighting forest fires in West Kelowna, B.C., crashed into Okanagan Lake on Saturday, CTV News has confirmed. The pilot was able to escape unhurt.

Rick Pedersen, a spokesman for Conair, said the plane flipped over at around noon while attempting to scoop up water from the lake. But Pedersen said he doesn't know what caused this to happen.

The AT802 Fire Boss plunged into about 110 metres of water, prompting officials from the Canadian Transportation Safety Board to launch an investigation.

The Fire Boss loads water at the rate of 40 gallons per second at over 60 miles per hour, according to the Conair website.

Powered by a turbine engine, it takes off and lands on the water, at remote strips or at small airports, and offers low vibration and excellent pilot visibility, Conair said.

Pedersen said the pilot has worked for the company for 10 years.

Pilot's name

"He's very experienced in air tanker operations, both amphibious as this was as well as our other tanker operations."

Pedersen said the company has contracted six such aircraft to the B.C. government as part of a fire-fighting effort in the Okanagan.

All six bombers are based in Alberta, from where they are on loan to B.C., Pedersen said.

He said the company is not releasing the pilot's name for now.

"We're still supporting the pilot and his family so we'll get through that first."

Residents who are coming back to their homes are still on evacuation alert and could be faced with leaving yet again if the fire flares up.

The fire now covers about 45 square kilometres.

With files from The Canadian Press