Under the direction of the Joint Forces Air Component commander for Air Forces Northern here, two C-130 Hercules aircraft from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, both equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems, or MAFFS, deployed to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., June 15 to conduct fire containment missions in support of wildfire suppression efforts in the southwestern U.S.
The aircraft are being deployed at the request of National Interagency Fire Center officials in Boise, Idaho. Members of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group will provide command and control of the aircraft from Boise. This year, the 302nd AEG, which is composed largely of personnel from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo., has supported firefighting efforts in Texas and Mexico.
Fire containment missions, which are assigned by NIFC officials or the respective wildland fire manager, are scheduled to begin June 16.
The MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting 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 60 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, a MAFFS can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.
The MAFFSs are owned by the USDA Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agencies and organizations with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression that comprise the NIFC in Boise, Idaho. Department of Defense aircrews are flying at the request of NIFC officials.
The Department of Defense, through the commander of U.S. Northern Command, provides support to the NIFC in conducting wildland firefighting operations within the continental U.S., Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as approved by the secretary of Defense.
AFNORTH is the air component for U.S. Northern Command and when tasked, provides support to local, state, tribal, regional and federal emergency service agencies.
by Tom Saunders
Air Forces Northern Public Affairs