302nd AEG eleventh day of California wild fire support

By Staff Sergeant Luke Johnson | 302nd Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs | July 06, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Aircraft of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group began their eleventh day of aerial firefighting support missions July 6 in a coordinated effort to control wildfires in California.

The 302nd AEG military airborne assets flew a total of 55 missions yesterday, dropping more than 125,500 gallons of fire retardant. To date, 302nd AEG has flown approximately 270 missions and dropped close to 600,000 gallons of fire retardant since June 26.

Yesterday, the C-130 Hercules modular airborne fire fighting system aircraft flew a California state record of 40 sorties in supporting firefighting efforts in more than 50 flight hours.

Sorties flown by the MAFFS-equipped C-130 covered the following fires: 33 sorties were flown to the Motion fire within the Shasta Complex, located in northern California’s Shasta and Trinity counties, delivering approximately 84,000 gallons of fire retardant and six sorties to the Piute fire located in the located in the Sequoia National Forest fire delivering more than 16,800 gallons of retardant.

Additionally, one sortie was flown to the Goleta, or Gap, fire located about six miles northwest of Santa Barbara delivering approximately 2,800 gallons of fire retardant.

Marine Corps CH-46E helicopter assets flew 13 sorties and performed a total of 71 air drops on the Gap fire, delivering approximately 22,000 gallons of water.

The C-130 aircraft covering the fires in Southern California reloaded fire retardant and refueled at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in order to save time traveling to the out-of-control wildfires in Southern California. The aircraft then returned to McClellan Airfield at the end of the flying day for maintenance and the next day’s launch.

The 302nd AEG aircraft units include three Air National Guard units – 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte, N.C., the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, Calif., and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo., and one Air Force Reserve unit -- the 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The 302nd AEG is made up of eight U.S. Air Force MAFFS-capable C-130 aircraft operating out of McClellan Airfield, Calif. and Navy Reserve and Marine Corps helicopters operating out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. 

Three Marine helicopter units – Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron (HMMT)   164, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 268 based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego – fly CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters equipped with 2,000-gallon specialized fire fighting buckets.

U.S. Navy Reserve helicopters flying at NAS Lemoore are assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Support Squadron (HSC) 85 based out of Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.  The squadron is flying MH-60S helicopters with 420- and 360-gallon specialized fire fighting buckets. 

The 302nd AEG provides unique capabilities and is part of a unified military support effort of U.S. Northern Command to provide assistance to the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and the National Interagency Fire Center.

NORTHCOM continues to closely monitor the California wildfires to anticipate additional requests for Department of Defense assistance to local, federal, and state civil authorities and will launch as many missions as officials require to battle the wildfires.

Fire information is current as of noon July 6.