"We are always ready to defend the lives of our citizens and their homelands..."

—Gen. Glen D. VanHerck





DoD Support to Wildland Firefighting

The U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) mission includes mitigating the effects of disasters by providing timely, effective defense support of civil authorities. Department of Defense (DoD) support for wildland firefighting (WFF) is part of that mission. USNORTHCOM stands together with federal agencies, tribal, state, and local partners, ready to respond to wildfires.



Suppressing Wildfires

USNORTHCOM provides support to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in conducting WFF operations within the continental United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other locations. The primary goal is protecting life and property from wildfire, while providing for public health and safety.

When requested by NIFC and approved by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), the DoD can provide unique firefighting assets. These diverse mission assets are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to protect lives, property, critical infrastructure and natural and cultural resources. Assets can include, but are not limited to, Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) equipped aircraft, military helicopters, and ground forces capable of supporting firefighting efforts.

USNORTHCOM exercises operational control of those forces through its U.S. Air Forces Northern and U.S. Army North air and land components. USNORTHCOM also exercises coordinating authority with Title 32 forces under the command and control of the affected state governor.

MAFFS Support

MAFFS are the U.S. Forest Service’s portable fire-retardant delivery systems that can be inserted into military C-130 aircraft without major structural modifications to convert them into air tankers when needed. MAFFS can discharge an entire load of up to 3,000 gallons of retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide, or make variable drops. Once the load is discharged, and the aircraft land at the tanker base, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

The number of MAFFS equipped aircraft flights each year varies with wildland fire activity. Over the last 14 years, federally activated, military C-130s equipped with MAFFS have delivered more than 10 million gallons of fire retardant on wildland fires, an average of 757,000 gallons per year.

There are a total of 8 MAFFS ready for operational use. The C-130s to fly MAFFS missions are provided by:

  • 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, Port Hueneme
  • 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, Reno
  • 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, Cheyenne
  • 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Peterson Space Force base, Colorado

Ground Forces Support

When requested by a civil authority and authorized by DoD, USNORTHCOM can deploy up to battalion-size units to assist with ground firefighting operations. However, ground forces can deploy in smaller increments based on NIFC requirements. These units are typically configured into 20-person crews and work side-by-side with civilian firefighters to perform a variety of tasks, such as clearing brush, constructing fire lines, igniting back fires and performing clean-up duties. Once authorized, these teams receive specialized training from NIFC and can be operational within approximately seven days.

From 1987 through 2020, ground forces have been activated a total of 38 times.

Firefighting News

May 4, 2022

Nevada Air Guard doubles certified pilots during aerial firefighting training

The Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Operations Group upgraded four pilots to aircraft commanders certified on the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) here, April 25 - 30.

May 4, 2022

Airborne Firefighting units participate in interagency spring training in Idaho

Less than two years after the most devastating firefighting season in the United States, the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) spring training took place at Gowen Field, Idaho, April 25-29, 2022.

Oct. 4, 2021

MAFFS crews wrap up second-busiest fire season in 49-year history

The USDA Forest Service released the final four U.S Air Force C-130 Modular Aircraft Firefighting System-equipped C-130 aircraft Sept. 29, marking the end of a 96-day support effort.

Firefighting Photos

... loading ...

Firefighting Video

Video by Spc. Ashleigh Maxwell
JBLM Soldiers conduct wildland fire fighting operations in support of NIFC
National Interagency Fire Center
Sept. 28, 2021 | 3:06
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion and 2-3 Infantry Battalion, both under the 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team and assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, deploy in support of the Department of Defense wildland firefighting response from Aug. 31 through Sept. 28, 2021. U.S. Army North, as U.S. Northern Command’s Joint Force Land Component Command remains committed to providing flexible DoD support to the National Interagency Fire Center to respond quickly and effectively to assist our local, state, and federal partners in protecting people, property, and public lands.