AEG launches day five of California fire support

By Senior Airman Stephen Collier | 302nd Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs | July 01, 2008

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Aircraft of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group launched their fifth day of California wildfire support June 30 in an effort to control fires engulfing areas of the Tahoe and Los Padres National Forests.

C-130 Hercules aircraft of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group are fighting fires in the American River Complex, the location of the Tahoe forest and are 10 percent contained.  Fires throughout the Basin Complex and Los Padras National Forest are three percent contained and have scorched more than 35,000 acres.

The American River Complex fires are located about 50 miles north of Sacramento and are threatening residential areas there. Fires raging in the Basin Complex include the Piute fire, which started June 28, is more than 260 miles south of Sacramento. That fire is uncontrolled, raging throughout the Sequoia National Forest near Lake Isabella. Fire officials are reporting that structures are being threatened by this fire.

Airmen of the 302nd AEG, based out of McClellan Airfield in Sacramento, are now joined by U.S. Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing of San Diego. Using the CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, the Marines are battling fires in the Mariposa area of the Oliver fire complex. The helicopters and aircrews are currently based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore and fly more than 100 miles to reach today’s fires. Fires being fought here by firefighters from 41 states and Marines from the 3rd MAW are 55 percent contained.

More than 6,400 lives are being threatened by each fire.

The 302nd AEG C-130 aircraft carry the modular airborne firefighting system, known as ‘MAFFS,’ are capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant per mission. The 302nd AEG has eight MAFFS-capable C-130s under its command and will launch as many missions as California officials require to contain the wildfires.

Aircrews have dropped approximately 117,000 gallons of fire retardant since airborne missions began June 26.  The C-130 aircraft’s deployed location in Sacramento allows the aircraft to fly with maximum fuel loads and operate MAFFS with full fire retardant capability.  The 302nd AEG is made up of two Air National Guard units, the 153rd AW, from Cheyenne, Wyo., and the 145th AW, Charlotte, N.C. and one Air Force Reserve unit, the 302nd AW from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo, flying eight aircraft in support of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as CAL FIRE.

Fire information is current as of 2 p.m. June 30.

For more information on fires throughout California, visit www.nifc.gov or www.fire.ca.gov. See www.northcom.mil for the latest military news on supporting California’s wildfire fight.