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More MAFFS, now in Arizona and New Mexico

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kimberly Holman
  • 146AW
Texas wildfires, and history-making international firefighting in Mexico splashed the headlines in April, followed by the largest fires in Arizona's history, burning more than half a million acres. Now the wildfires have fled over borders into Colorado and New Mexico, and are ripping across forested lands, threatening homes and significant structures like the Los Alamos National Laboratory-- where the first atomic bomb was built and where the world's most dangerous weapons are made today. The California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing has been fighting fires alongside other MAFFS units from around the country since early Spring of this year, and the wing's C130Js were among the first tankers on-scene for the rapidly growing Los Conchas fire which started June 26.

"The National Guard's MAFFS C130s were some of the first tankers to get to the Los Conchas fire just outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico," said Lt. Col. Bryan Allen, one of the MAFFS pilots who flew the fires. "The fire is getting a lot of national attention and is growing in size at an alarming rate. We were glad to be here to help."

The Guardsmen began support to the U.S. Forest Service firefighting efforts in Arizona June 15, providing two C-130J Hercules aircraft and support personnel operating out of Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque. Two additional C130s from the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N.C. arrived shortly after on June 18 to help fight the fires which crossed the border into New Mexico. Two C130s from the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs rotated in to replace the 146th AW June 29.

The wing is credited with flying 58 sorties and accomplished 65 drops while deployed to New Mexico. They dropped 167,300 gallons of retardant, which translates to 1,522,200 pounds.

"Our aircrews, maintenance and support personnel did an outstanding job performing this dangerous mission," said 146th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Paul Hargrove. "We were called out early this year to assist drought ridden Arizona and New Mexico, and we are prepared to deploy again if needed by the U.S. Forest Service, as the fire season is now fully under way."

"California is no stranger to the threat of wildfires, and protecting our nation's vital assets and the people who live here is what we train for," said California Adjutant General Major General David S. Baldwin. "It's important to note that while we have two of our aircraft deployed to assist with the New Mexico and Arizona wildfires, this does not affect our ability at home to respond within the Golden State to as our state's own wildfire season approaches."

The 146th Airlift Wing had to pull out of the annual MAFFS certification and training which was scheduled to take place in May, remaining in Texas to fight ongoing fires there. Training and certification was rescheduled and held instead for the wing locally in Port Hueneme in early June. Other MAFFS units continued with training as scheduled in Boise --the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, the 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, and the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs.

The Cal Guard's state-of the-art C130J aircraft are equipped with a self-contained aerial firefighting system known as the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, or MAFFS. These systems 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 60 feet wide. Once discharged, the aircraft can reload retardant in less than 12 minutes.