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Colorado AF Reservists fighting California fires from the sky

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daniel Butterfield
  • 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped aircraft arrived here from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.   yesterday afternoon and started flying on the Rocky fire Northwest of Sacramento, Calif., the same day.

They joined two Air National Guard MAFFS-equipped C-130Js from the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands, Calif., that had been flying on the fire since Aug. 1.

"We were flying within a couple hours of arriving here," said Maj. Brian McReynolds, who is a MAFFS aircraft commander for the first time this season.

The Rocky fire has burned 62,000 acres as of Tuesday morning and is only 12 percent contained. Thousands of residents have been evacuated so far. The dry, windy conditions could mean an even more dangerous fire if the environment does not improve.

"It was challenging," said McReynolds. "There were multiple fires in one location, smoke, other air traffic."

On the first day all four C-130 aircraft were fighting the Rocky fire, they flew a combined 22 sorties and dropped close to 63,000 gallons of retardant to establish fire containment lines.

According to the Air National Guard mission commander, Maj. Andrew Miller, they are expecting to fly out of McClellan for the next several weeks.

The DOD MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military airlift wings: The 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, U.S. 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.

The DOD, through U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, provides unique military support to firefighting efforts when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the Secretary of Defense.  These diverse mission assets are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to protect lives, property, critical infrastructure and natural resources, and can include, but are not limited to, MAFFS, military helicopters and ground forces capable of supporting the firefighting efforts.