USNORTHCOM assists with California wildfires

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | June 25, 2008

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – U.S. Northern Command is mobilizing two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) capable aircraft, a Defense Coordinating Officer (DCO) and Defense Coordinating Element (DCE) in response to a request for assistance for wildland fire fighting support from the State of California over the weekend.

More than 5,000 lightning strikes Sat., June 21, sparked approximately 668 new wildfires throughout the state, prompting the state to generate a Request for Assistance from the National Interagency Fire Center, which in turn made a request for support to U.S. Northern Command.

The MAFFS-capable aircraft, C-130 H3s, that are part of the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command out of Colorado, fall under the control of USNORTHCOM when supporting NIFC.  Additionally, USNORTHCOM coordinates the efforts of MAFFS-capable National Guard aircraft, including those from the North Carolina Air National Guard, to ensure total force support for NIFC. 

"We are working with our interagency partners to support the State of California in any way we can,” said Gen. Gene Renuart, commanding officer of USNORTHCOM.  “It’s important that we focus on our role as a supporting element to the NIFC.  As soon as a request is sent to us, we have the proper and appropriate pieces of the firefighting force moving, whether is it personnel or equipment, or both.”

C-130 aircraft crews fly the actual MAFFS mission.  The MAFFS unit itself is a series of pressurized tanks that hold 3,000 gallons (30,000 lbs.) of flame-retardant liquid. This equipment is loaded into the aircraft's cargo area.  Once airborne, the aircraft is directed by air liaison officers of the U.S. Forest Service, and led to the fire site by a U.S. Forest service lead plane.  MAFFS aircraft drop retardant along the leading edge of a fire to inhibit the spread of flames.

The DCO acts as liaison between the NIFC and USNORTHCOM, relaying capabilities available to NIFC and coordinating movement of active-duty personnel and equipment to assist should the need arise.  The DCE acts as administrative support to the DCO.

U.S. Northern Command, established in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, is responsible for Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities.  For more information about U.S. Northern Command please visit www.northcom.mil.