Guard members respond to brush fires in California

By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke | National Guard Bureau | July 21, 2010

ARLINGTON, Va.– Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems 2 aircraft from the California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Island ANG Station, Calif., responded to a fire July 15 in Riverside County, Calif.

Guard officials said the unit was requested by the U.S. Forest Service through the National Interagency Fire Center after lightning caused a brush fire near Temecula.

The two C-130J Super Hercules aircraft flew one sortie for almost two hours and dropped 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on what the Riverside County Fire Department dubbed the "Skinner fire."

More than a dozen fires broke out in the county, as powerful thunderstorms rolled across the region, National Weather Service officials said.

The fire had burned about 711 acres and was about 15 percent contained by late July 15, according to local news reports. Full containment was estimated for July 16.

Assistance by the military is normally requested when national civilian resources are committed to fires and more resources are needed, guard officials said. The 146th AW was called to respond to this fire, because it needs 13 drops on actual fires for certification on the new MAFFS 2 system.

The unit was the first to transition to the MAFFS 2 system in 2008, and it remains the only unit flying the new system on the C-130J Super Hercules.

MAFFS 2 systems incorporate new design features and technology that provide a number of advantages over the legacy MAFFS systems, including improvements in fire retardant coverage level, improved safety features, reduction of corrosion of the aircraft and an on-board compressor.

MAFFS is a portable fire retardant delivery system that is rolled into the back of the C-130J Super Hercules cargo compartment. The system is capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant or water on wildfires. They can discharge their entire load in under five seconds.

Along with the 146th AW, there are three other MAFFS units, including the Wyoming ANG's 153rd AW, the North Carolina ANG's 145th AW, and the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd AW, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Since 1974, National Guard and Air Force Reserve pilots have flown 6,500 firefighting missions, dropping 167 million pounds of fire retardant around the western U.S., officials said.