AFNORTH increases wildfire suppression support

By Tom Saunders | AFNORTH Public Affairs | June 17, 2011

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Air Forces Northern will deploy two additional C-130 aircraft and has deployed an emergency planning liaison officer to support wildfire suppression efforts in the southwestern United States.

Upon request from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard will send two U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems aircraft to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

The 145th AW aircraft are scheduled to be operational by Sunday and will join the two MAFFS-equipped aircraft that arrived from the 146th Airlift Wing of the California Air National Guard Wednesday.

Firefighting suppression flights began Thursday when the 145th AW flew four flights, dropping 12,000 gallons of retardant during seven drops.

The 302nd Air Expeditionary Group, which activated Wednesday and is operating from NIFC's headquarters, will provide command and control of the MAFFS aircraft. The 302nd AEG is led by Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson AFB, Colo. The group is comprised of the 302nd AW, 145th AW and 146th AW, and the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd AW.

Additionally, AFNORTH's National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate deployed Lt. Col. Scott Tagg, an AFNORTH emergency preparedness liaison officer from Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 10, to NIFC, Thursday.

Colonel Tagg, a Boise native, will advise federal, state and regional agencies on Air Force capabilities that may be used during wildfire suppression response.

Air Force EPLOs are senior Air Force reserve officers who are subject matter experts in state and regional disaster response plans. EPLOs are geographically assigned to each state and the 10 FEMA Regional Coordination Centers. The officers come from a wide range of career fields including air operations, logistics, medical, security forces, and public affairs.

The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, is a self-contained aerial firefighting system, which can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 60 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

The MAFFS is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agencies and organizations with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression that comprises NIFC. The Department of Defense is flying at the request of NIFC.

The Department of Defense, through the commander of U.S. Northern Command provides support to NIFC in conducting wildland fire fighting operations within the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as approved by the Secretary of Defense.

AFNORTH is the air component for U.S. Northern Command and when tasked, provides support to local, state, tribal, regional and federal emergency service agencies.