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302nd AW MAFFS part of surge support for more than 20 California fires

  • Published
  • By Daniel Butterfield
  • 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

 A 302nd Airlift Wing aerial firefighting C-130 Hercules aircraft returned here after seven weeks of Reserve Citizen Airmen supporting U.S. Forest Service firefighting efforts in the Western U.S., Sept. 17.

The 302nd AW began Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System operations after receiving a request for assistance from the National Interagency Firefighting Center July 27. The NIFC request came due to elevated fire activity throughout California, Great Basin, the Northwest and Northern Rockies geographic areas.

While activated, the 302nd AW operated out of Fresno Air Attack Base, California. There they joined federally-activated MAFFS-equipped C-130s from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, Nevada, and the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, based in Cheyenne. Earlier in July, the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing provided MAFFS support while based out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California, flying missions under a state activation with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Together, the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd AW and Air National Guard MAFFS wings supported fire suppression missions that took them to more than two dozen fires throughout California.

“In talking to (U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and CalFire) lead pilots and other personnel in civil agencies, we were effective and helped contain many fires,” said Lt. Col. Luke Thompson, the 302nd AW chief of aerial firefighting. “Thanks to the crews who waited through the slow days in Fresno. We needed to be used in order to maintain proficiency. It was good we were able to be there when the activity picked back up.”

The C-130 crews flew 293 sorties in 2017, dropping more than 820,000 gallons of retardant in 315 drops, all on California fires.

Throughout the operation, approximately 50 aircrew, aircraft maintainers and support personnel from all four MAFFS wing’s supported the MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group mission in Fresno as well as at the NIFC headquarters in Boise, Idaho.

“With aircraft already at a premium to fulfill the wing’s commitments, maintenance once again juggled their schedule to make aircraft available for firefighting," said Thompson.

The 302nd AW also supported MAFFS efforts in other ways throughout 2017. Aircrew members provided MAFFS instruction to Nevada ANG personnel who this year, were going into their second year of MAFFS missions. The 302nd AW also provided command and administrative support to the MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group in Boise.

“Thanks to everyone who participated while deployed, and for supporting the mission from back home by dropping their normal duties and quickly responding to the MAFFS activation,” said Thompson.

The MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military airlift wings: 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado (Air Force Reserve Command).

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 five 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.