The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has requested two Department of Defense C-130 aircraft equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) to support wildland firefighting operations in support of NIFC in the northwestern United States. One C-130H from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, Nev., and one C-130J from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, Port Hueneme, Calif., and crews will arrive at Boise Airport in Idaho today and are standing by for flying on behalf of a DoD-approved USDA Forest Service Request.
“We greatly appreciate the assistance of our military partners,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the USDA Forest Service. “These aircraft will help provide additional capacity for aerial firefighting.”
Having military C-130s that can be converted into airtankers provides a critical “surge” capability that can be used to bolster wildfire suppression efforts when commercial airtankers are fully committed or not readily available.
“We take to heart our team’s effort to help protect property and critical infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of saving lives,” said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, commander, First Air Force – Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH). “Our MAFFS-trained team of professionals completed rigorous annual aerial wildland firefighting training in April with the USDA Forest Service to ensure they were fully prepared for the wildfire season.”
First Air Force – Air Forces Northern (AFNORTH) headquartered at Tyndall AFB, Fla., U.S. Northern Command’s Air Component Command, is the DoD’s operational lead for the aerial wildland firefighting military efforts. The team is committed to excellence through training and interagency relationships.
So far this fire year there have been 49,193 fires reported burning 6,311,144 acres across the nation, according to the NIFC website.
The 152nd Airlift Wing, known as the High Rollers, is one of four military C-130 units around the nation equipped with MAFFS for largescale wildland firefighting.
The initial request lasts through Oct. 8, 2022. The High Rollers initially activated last firefighting season on June 26, 2021. They finished up their 89-day MAFFS activation Sept. 22, 2021. They flew a total of 330 sorties and dropped 8,181,017 pounds of retardant (912,042 gallons). This was 36 percent of the total gallons dropped from the four-unit (8 aircraft) Air Expeditionary Group during this fire year. The remaining units finished their 96-day activation on Sept. 29.
“We’ve trained and prepared well to be called into action this fire season,” said Col. Evan Kirkwood, 152nd Air Expeditionary Group commander. “As citizen Airmen, we are always honored to help out our community, state and nation. Last year was an unprecedented fire year and I continue to be humbled by the outstanding work showcased by the amazing Airmen I serve with.”
Last year marked the 49th year for the MAFFS program, and it was the second busiest MAFFS activation in those 49 years of the C-130 military aircraft supporting the United States Forest Service. It was a notable season for all MAFFS crews including the High Rollers from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, Nevada; the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, Port Hueneme, Calif.; Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.; and the Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Air tankers are used to help build lines of containment with retardant to help reduce the intensity and slow the growth of wildland fires. Dispatch centers deploy aircraft to drop fire retardant based on requests from civilian Incident Commanders.
The MAFFS aircraft can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than 10 seconds across a quarter-mile line. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle on the rear left side.
NIFC is the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. Eight different agencies and organizations are part of NIFC, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, National Association of State Foresters, and state emergency response agencies.