CHEYENNE, Wyo., June 29, 2012 – Beginning tomorrow, eight military C-130 aircraft, each equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, will be operating out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to assist with firefighting efforts in the Rocky Mountain region.
Two MAFFS-equipped C-130s from the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing and Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing have been working out of Peterson Air Force Base, located in Colorado Springs, Colo., since June 25.
Yesterday, the U.S. Forest Service requested that the remaining four MAFFS units be activated for the Rocky Mountain region. U.S. Northern Command, the Defense Department organization responsible for providing civil support, approved the request and agreed to activate the units late last night.
The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, from Channel Islands, and the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, from Charlotte, will join the 153rd and the 302nd.
This is the first time since 2008 that all eight military aircraft have been activated at one time, said Air Force Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander. In that year, the aircraft were stationed at McClellan Airpark in Sacramento, Calif., to fight fires in that state.
Champlin, a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard, has tactical control over the MAFFS aircraft.
Although all eight C-130s will operate from Peterson Air Force Base for now, where they will drop fire retardant depends on the daily situation in the region, officials said. The U.S. Forest Service also may choose to base one or more aircraft in other operating areas.
“They are assigned to fires on a priority basis for each day,” said Scott Fisher, with the U.S. Forest Service. “Air tankers may also be reassigned during the day, based on a shift in priority for the Rocky Mountain coordination center.”
During the first five days of the military’s activation, the four MAFFS-equipped C-130s have dropped 138,398 gallons of fire retardant on two fires in Colorado: the Waldo Canyon Fire, near Colorado Springs, and the Flagstaff Fire, near Boulder.
The C-130s are aiding the effort through a joint Defense Department and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service’s needs.
MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.