AFNORTH officials increase wildfire suppression support

  • Published
  • By Tom Saunders
  • Air Forces Northern Public Affairs
Air Forces Northern officials deployed two additional C-130 Hercules and an emergency planning liaison officer to support wildfire suppression efforts in the Southwestern United States.

Upon request from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the North Carolina Air National Guard 145th Airlift Wing sent two aircraft equipped with U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems aircraft to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.

The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System is a self-contained aerial firefighting system, which can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area .25 miles long by 60 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

The MAFFS is owned by the U.S. Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agencies and organizations with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression that comprises NIFC. The Department of Defense is flying at the request of NIFC.

The 145th AW aircraft were scheduled to begin  operations June 19 and joined the two MAFFS-equipped aircraft that arrived from the  California ANG146th Airlift Wing June 15.

Firefighting suppression flights began June 16 when the 145th AW flew four flights, dropping 12,000 gallons of retardant during seven drops.

The 302nd Air Expeditionary Group, which activated June 15 and is operating from NIFC's headquarters, will provide command and control of the MAFFS aircraft. The 302nd AEG is led by the Air Force Reserve Command 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson AFB, Colo. The group is comprises the 302nd AW, 145th AW and 146th AW and the Wyoming Air National Guard 153rd AW.

Additionally, AFNORTH's National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate deployed Lt. Col. Scott Tagg, an AFNORTH emergency preparedness liaison officer from Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 10, to NIFC, June 16.

Colonel Tagg will advise federal, state and regional agencies on Air Force capabilities that may be used during wildfire suppression response.

Air Force EPLOs are senior Air Force Reserve officers who are subject matter experts in state and regional disaster response plans. EPLOs are geographically assigned to each state and the 10 FEMA Regional Coordination Centers. The officers come from a wide range of career fields including air operations, logistics, medical, security forces and public affairs.

The DOD, through the commander of U.S. Northern Command provides support to NIFC in conducting wildland fire fighting operations within the continental United States, 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.