Story by Capt. Dusty Culpepper, CONR-1AF (AFNORTH)
Two additional U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft are scheduled to join the Department of Defense efforts for wildland fire fighting in western states today as requested by the USDA Forest Service, bringing the number to five C-130 military aircraft activated.
“It is shaping up to be a very challenging fire season,” said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) commander. “The AFNORTH team is honored to support our Air Expeditionary Group comprised of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130 crews committed to fight the especially devastating fires out west.”
Modular Airborne Firefighting System (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers from Colorado Air Force Reserves’ 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, and the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd AW in Cheyenne, are scheduled to join crews from the California Air National Guard’s 146th AW based out or Channel Islands Air Guard Station in Oxnard, and the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd AW from Reno, which has two aircraft in the mission.
MAFFS, Modular Airborne Firefighting System, is essentially a storage tank loaded inside the C-130 so it can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant through the rear aircraft nozzle in less than 10 seconds across a quarter-mile line. The MAFFS’s belong to the Forest Service while the aircraft are Air Force owned.
Since activating June 26, the MAFFS mission has flown 225 sorties resulting in 199 drops dispensing over 5 million pounds of flame retardant.
“We feel for those affected and have our top Airmen giving their best efforts to help suppress the wildfires,” added Pierce.
First Air Force (Air Forces Northern), as U.S. Northern Command’s Air Component Command, is the DoD’s operational lead for the aerial military efforts. USNORTHCOM’s priorities are homeland defense, mission assurance, force protection and Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), the latter of which includes wildland firefighting.
NIFC is the nation’s support center for wildland fire fighting. Eight different agencies and organizations are part of NIFC including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife-Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, and the National Association of State Foresters.