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MAFFS aircraft, crews conclude firefighting operations in Southwest

  • Published
After performing 242 sorties and dropping 609,960 gallons of fire retardant over the wildfires that have been burning in New Mexico and Arizona, Air Reserve Component personnel and their Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped aircraft concluded their mission July 13.

National Interagency Fire Center officials released the units along with the command and control element July 13, ending the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard support of Southwestern U.S. firefighting efforts that began when specially-equipped U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft began dropping retardant June 16.

Under the direction of the Joint Forces Air Component Commander for Air Forces Northern, since June, C-130s equipped with fire fighting capabilities deployed to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., as part of the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group. Command and control of the aircraft was provided by the 302nd AEG from Boise, Idaho.

"This has been an extremely busy fire season so far," said Lt. Col. Dave Condit, the deputy commander of the 302nd AEG. "We have exceeded our annual average of fire missions by more than 50 percent, and we are just now entering the part of the summer when we are typically first tasked.

"The team success over the past 30 days demonstrated the professionalism and effectiveness of the citizen Airmen who volunteer for this vital mission," Condit added.

Returning to home station July 14 were personnel and two MAFFS-equipped aircraft from the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson AFB, Colo. Other MAFFS units that participated in the firefighting efforts were the North Carolina ANG's 145th Airlift Wing and the California's ANG's 146th AW.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system, which can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, drawing lines of containment that can cover an area one-quarter of a mile long by 60 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, the MAFFS system can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

With the use of new MAFFS II units, this year's fire season was the first to successfully fly fire missions using a new concept of operations that increased the effectiveness while decreasing costs.

The MAFFS units are owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agencies and organizations with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression that make up the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The Department of Defense flew at the request of NIFC.

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.

(Courtesy of 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs)