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Firefighting Ops 2016 Conclude

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kimberly Holman
  • 146th Airlift Wing
In many places now, Fall is in the air, and unless Mother Nature has something up her sleeve, it looks like the C-130s and the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems, known as MAFFS, have completed their work for the 2016 season.

The Air Expeditionary Group was activated in response to a request for support from the U.S. Forest Service August 3, and began operating out of Boise attacking primarily the Pioneer Fire in the Boise National Forest. Crews from the 302nd Air Force Reserves in Colorado Springs and the 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne were the first in the fight. Along this year learning the ropes for the first time were aircrew members from Reno's 152nd Airlift Wing. The MAFFS crews fought wildland fires for a month in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon.

On August 17, the 146th Airlift Wing joined the fight and was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. Tanker base operations were running very smoothly out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, and the Rey Fire was only a 33 nautical mile flight away, located just north of Santa Barbara. On August 23 a total of 27 drops were made on the Rey Fire, helping firefighters contain the raging flames. Much effort was also spent on the Chimney Fire near Hearst Castle in the San Luis Obispo area before California's MAFFS were closed up on August 30. In California, crews made 112 retardant drops, which came to 288,000 gallons of retardant.

All MAFFS operations ended Sept. 3 in Boise, with a total of 165 drops and 396,632 gallons of retardant dropped.  Fires flown in the Boise activation included Pioneer, Peterson Hollow, Izzenhood, Rock Hill, Rocky, Cherry Road, Pioneer, Henry Creek, Stein, Aspen, Wither, Toponce Creek, Walter Flush, Strawberry, Power Line, Simmons Gulch, and Sheep Rock.

The AEG includes three National Guard units - the 146th Airlift Wing, of California; the 153rd Airlift Wing, of Wyoming; the 145th Airlift Wing, of North Carolina - and one Air Force Reserve unit, the 302nd Airlift Wing, of Colorado Springs. As part of its new mission to replace the 145th as the fourth MAFFS unit, the 152nd Airlift Wing out of Reno augmented with the 153rd and the 302nd this fire fighting season to gain experience and meet certification.

Since 1974, MAFFS - a fire retardant delivery system inserted into C-130 aircraft - has been a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense.
The U.S. Forest Service owns MAFFS equipment and supplies ground crew and retardant for fire fighting. The Department of Defense provides C-130 aircraft, flight crews and maintenance and support personnel to fly missions.

The equipment can discharge up to 3,000 gallons of retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60-feet wide. Once discharged, it can be refilled and airborne in less than 12 minutes.