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120628-F-IG195-0700.NEF
The 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne WY use a modular air fire fighting system equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft in support of the Waldo Canyon wild fire in Colorado Springs, CO on June 27, 2012. Four MAFFS-equipped aircraft from the 302nd and 153rd Airlift Wings flew in support of the U.S. Forest Service as they fought fires in Colorado. MAFFS is a self-contained aerial fire fighting system that 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 100 feet wide. Click for hi-res version.

Beginning Saturday, June 30, eight military C-130 aircraft, each equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) will be operating out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to assist with fire fighting efforts in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Two MAFFS-equipped C-130s from the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing and the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing have been working out of Peterson Air Force Base, located in Colorado Springs, Colo., since June 25.

On June 28, the U.S. Forest Service requested the remaining four MAFFS units be activated for the Rocky Mountain region. U.S. Northern Command, the Department of Defense organization responsible for providing civil support, approved the request and agreed to activate the units late that night.

The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, from Channel Islands, and the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, from Charlotte, will join the 153rd and the 302nd.

This is the first time since 2008 that all eight military aircraft have been activated at one time, said Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander. In that year, the aircraft were stationed at McClellan Airpark in Sacramento, Calif., to fight fires in that state.

“There have been other times, as well, like Boise in 2006,” said Champlin, a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard who, as this year’s AEG commander, has tactical control over the MAFFS aircraft.

Although all eight C-130s will operate from Peterson Air Force Base, for now, on which fire they will drop retardant depends on the daily fire situation in the region. The U.S. Forest Service also may choose to base one or more aircraft in other operating areas.

“They are assigned to fires on a priority basis for each day,” said Scott Fisher, with the U.S. Forest Service. “Airtankers may also be re-assigned during the day, based on a shift in priority for the Rocky Mountain coordination center.”

During the first five days of the military’s activation, the four MAFFS-equipped C-130s have dropped 138,398 gallons of fire retardant on two fires in Colorado, the Waldo Canyon fire, near Colorado Springs, and the Flagstaff fire, near Boulder.

MAFFS is a joint DoD and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private airtankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the U.S. Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than 5 seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

Waldo Canyon:
— 48 air drops
— App. 127,900 gallons of retardant

Flagstaff:
— Five (5) air drops
— App. 13,200 gallons of retardant

Source: U.S. Army

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