Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
DoD/Forest Service firefighting aircraft see record year
The historic wildfire season that has scorched land throughout the west this spring and summer has also produced an historic response from the joint Defense Department/Forest Service air tankers fighting them.
The Defense Department Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS)-equipped C-130s dropped the two millionth gallon of retardant for the season on Aug. 24, according to the Defense Department.
Additionally, said DoD officials, 2012 is the first year since 2008 that all four MAFFS wings have been activated simultaneously. The DoD added that leaders of the 153rd Air Expeditionary Group in Boise, ID, where some of the aircraft are based, said this season is the third-highest in MAFFS history for gallons of retardant dropped, surpassed only by 1994 and 2000, when about 5 million gallons and 2.1 million gallons, respectively, were dropped.
Through Aug. 27, said DoD, the MAFFS fleet had released more than 2,152,603 gallons of fire retardant during 899 drops on fires in 10 states.
MAFFS is a joint DOD and U.S. Forest Service program that provides additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.
MAFFS 5, assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, CO, dropped the record-breaking gallon during its third trip of the day battling the Halstead fire north of Stanley, ID, according to the DoD’s Armed Forces Press Service. The Halstead fire has consumed almost 105,000 acres of timber in the rugged, remote Salmon-Challis National Forest since it started on July 27. Almost 600 firefighters are working to put the blaze out.
Also on Aug. 24, said the news service, the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 53rd Airlift Wing also provided aerial firefighting support to the Halstead fire, and additional MAFFS-equipped C-130s flew in support of firefighting efforts in California and Oregon.
The Halstead fire is only one of dozens burning the parched western states during one of the hottest summers on record, keeping aircraft like the DoD’s MAFF-equipped C-130s busy.
According to the DoD report, MAFFS-equipped C-130s have been activated since June 25, when they were requested by the U.S. Forest Service for assistance in the Rocky Mountain area.
Throughout the 2012 season, it said, MAFFS C-130s have been flying out of a number of tanker base locations, moving MAFFS operations closer to the fires as needed. Tanker bases in 2012 included locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, Idaho, California, Montana and Oregon.
This year, MAFFS supported firefighting efforts in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.