Aerial firefighters from 146th Airlift Wing respond to New Mexico wildfires
By Maj. Kimberly Holman, 146AW
/ Published June 28, 2011
PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- The California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing is now fighting fires in New Mexico, and the wing's C130Js were among the first tankers on-scene for the rapidly growing Los Conchas fire which started Sunday.
"The National Guard's MAFFS C130s were 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 have been supporting the U.S. Forest Service with firefighting efforts in Arizona since June 15 providing two C-130J Hercules aircraft and 23 personnel operating out of Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque. Two additional C130s from the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N.C. have been there as well and are now fighting the fires which crossed the border into New Mexico.
While the Arizona wildfires are now reported to be more than 80 percent under control, new fires in northern New Mexico continue to burn, and had destroyed 30 structures near Los Alamos by early Monday. Los Alamos hosts the country's nuclear weapons lab which was forced to shut down due to the proximity of the fires. The Los Alamos national Laboratory is where the first atomic bomb was built and where the world's most dangerous weapons are made today.
"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. "Even with two of our aircraft deployed to assist with the New Mexico wildfires, our robust force stands ready as our state's own wildfire season approaches."
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.
These fires in New Mexico mark the third location this year where the 146th Airlift Wing has deployed to support firefighting efforts. For several weeks in April the 146th Airlift Wing sent aircraft to Texas to engage wildfires there. This current mission began as support to Arizona on June 15.