Military News

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Total Force collaborates to fight Western wildfires

by Master Sgt. Daniel Butterfield
302nd Airlift Wing

8/5/2015 - MCCLELLAN AIR TANKER BASE, Calif -- Two Air Force Reserve Modular Airborne Firefighting System equipped C-130 Hercules along with two MAFFS certified aircrews and support personnel from the 302nd Airlift Wing have been activated to support the aerial firefighting efforts for the ongoing wild land fires in the Western U.S.

The MAFFS certified Reservists are expected to fly fire containment missions based from McClellan Air Tanker Base, California and other locations as needed.  The two 302nd AW MAFFS-equipped C-130s are expected departed Peterson AFB, Colorado Aug. 3 to join two Air National Guard MAFFS-equipped C-130Js from the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands, California, that had been flying on the fire since Aug. 1, 2015. If activated to federal service, the 146th AW is gained by the Air Mobility Command.

We were flying within a couple hours of arriving here," said Maj. Brian McReynolds, who is a MAFFS aircraft commander for the first time this season.

The Rocky fire has burned 62,000 acres as of Tuesday morning and is only 12 percent contained. Thousands of residents have been evacuated so far. The dry, windy conditions could mean an even more dangerous fire if the environment does not improve.

"It was challenging," said McReynolds. "There were multiple fires in one location, smoke, other air traffic."

On the first day all four C-130 aircraft were fighting the Rocky fire, they flew a combined 22 sorties and dropped close to 63,000 gallons of retardant to establish fire containment lines.

According to the Air National Guard mission commander, Maj. Andrew Miller, they are expecting to fly out of McClellan for the next several weeks.

The DOD MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military airlift wings: The 153rd AW, Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th AW, California Air National Guard; 145th AW, North Carolina Air National Guard; and the 302nd AW, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system, owned by the U.S. 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.

The DOD, through U.S. Northern Command at Peterson AFB, provides unique military support to firefighting efforts when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the Secretary of Defense.  These diverse mission assets are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to protect lives, property, critical infrastructure and natural resources, and can include, but are not limited to, MAFFS, military helicopters and ground forces capable of supporting the firefighting efforts.

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