C-130s drop retardant over Texas wildfires

By Lt. Col. Susan A. Romano AFNORTH Public Affairs


TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. –As the nation’s second most populous state and second largest in square miles, Texas continues to battle wildfires in all its 254 counties, many of the fires considered major.

In a letter to the president on April 16, 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry requested federal assistance to help contain the fires, and Air Forces Northern, U.S. Northern Command’s air component, immediately answered the governor’s call.

“We have a unique capability with our Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System aboard C-130 aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Dave Condit, 302nd Air Expeditionary Group deputy commander. “The MAFFS are able to drop 3,000 gallons of retardant from their tanks in under five seconds, cover an area one-quarter mile long, and refill in less than 12 minutes. For these operations in Texas, our objective is to supplement existing large air tanker support from the USDA Forest Service.”

To date, MAFFS have made 32 air drops of more than 90,000 gallons of retardant.

Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve MAFFS units from across the United States are staged at Laughlin AFB in Del Rio, Texas and Dyess AFB in Abilene, Texas, where they are coordinating their flying operations with the National Interagency Fire Center, the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting in Boise, Idaho.

For immediate response effort like this, an air expeditionary group is formed. For this response, members of the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo., received the call to respond. The MAFFS crews and select leadership formed the 302nd AEG, temporarily operating out of Laughlin AFB, with other representatives working at NIFC headquarters in Boise.

In addition to NIFC and the Department of Defense, several other agencies have responded to Texas’ call for assistance – the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and the Salvation Army, just to name a few.

Col. Jack Pittman, 302nd AEG commander, said, "We realize that time is important to people who are facing very difficult and challenging times due to the fires, and we're committed to responding as efficiently and quickly as possible. It's remarkable how all the agencies involved are able to work together in such a dynamic situation to provide timely and effective containment actions, and we're proud to support those agencies."

The MAFFS is owned by the USDA Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agency and organization partners at NIFC. The Department of Defense is flying at the request of NIFC.

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.

For more information, contact AFNORTH Public Affairs at (850) 283-8080, (850) 624-4293, or via email at AFNORTH.PA@tyndall.af.mil.