Air National Guard, Reserve MAFFS-equipped C-130s integral part of wildfire suppression

By Sgt. Darron Salzer | National Guard Bureau | August 01, 2012

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Air National Guard has increasingly worked alongside the U.S. Forest Service and other emergency responders this summer, in what officials call one of the worst wildfire seasons in U.S. history.

Flying C-130 Hercules equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, Air National Guard members - as of today - have flown more than 340 flights.

Those flights have culminated in 368 fire retardant drops in which more than eight million pounds - or 888,981 gallons - of fire retardant was dropped on wildfires over the span of 329 flight hours. This year alone, MAFFS units have assisted with more than 35 wildfires.

Today, the 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs, Colo., an Air Force Reserve unit, and three Air Guard units – the145th AW in Charlotte, N.C.; the 146th AW in Channel Islands, Calif. and the 153rd AW in Cheyenne, Wyo. – each have two MAFFS-equipped C-130s able to respond to wildfires throughout the U.S. The 146th is currently the only Air Guard Wing still performing MAFFS related missions at this time.

Wildfires across the U.S. have destroyed more than 1.2 million acres and on June 28, President Barack Obama approved a disaster declaration request for Colorado providing additional support to state and local officials responding to the fires there, as well as federal assistance for individuals affected by both the High Park and the Waldo Canyon Fire.

There are currently seven Air National Guard C-130 aircraft equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s MAFFS. Those C-130s are available for the command and control of U.S. Northern Command to continue support efforts to control fires in the Rocky Mountain region and western United States at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

As of July 26, there were more than 8,400 personnel, 600 fire engines, 19 large air tankers, including the seven MAFFS-equipped C-130s, as well as 71 Single Engine Air Tankers available nationally to combat fires burning across the United States.

According to an Air Force report, MAFFS units provide emergency capability to supplement existing commercial tanker support on wild-land fires. MAFFS aid the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service when all other air tankers are activated but further assistance is needed.

The Forest Service can request help from the Air Guard, Reserve and active Air Force MAFFS units, highlighting interagency cooperation.

In the 1970s, Congress established the MAFFS system after a major fire burned into Long Beach, Calif., destroying hundreds of homes, and overwhelming the civilian tanker fleet's ability to respond at the time.

The 145th - of the North Carolina Air National Guard - held a private memorial service July 11 for the four Airmen killed in the crash of an Air National Guard MAFFS equipped C-130. The men died Sunday, July 1, when their plane went down while fighting the White Draw fire near Edgemont, S.D. The service was held at the 145th AW base.