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Aircraft deploy to California to aid firefighting effort

C-130 Hercules Modular Airborne Firefighting System aircraft No. 5, or MAFFS 5, sits on the flightline at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif., after deploying 3,000 gallons of fire retardant over the Poomacha fire Oct. 24 in North San Diego County, Calif. The C-130 and crew are assigned to the 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Air Force Reserve Command officials sent two of its designated firefighting C-130H3 aircraft to help battle the raging wildfires in Southern California. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Roy. A. Santana)

Air Force file photo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Roy. A. Santana)

FILE PHOTO -- Air National Guard C-130 Hercules equipped with modular airborne firefighting systems, similar to this one, are dropping thousands of gallons of retardant on the wildfires in Southern California.  The fires have destroyed more than 830 homes and burned out more than 500,000 acres.  California officials said the fires are responsible for at least 15 deaths.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Daryl McKamey)

Air Force file photo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Daryl McKamey)

BOISE, Idaho (AFNS) --

The U.S. Forest Service, through the National Interagency Fire Center here, has ordered the three MAFFS aircraft operating at the Boise Air Tanker Base moved to McClellan Air Tanker base near Sacramento, Calif., to assist the wildland firefighting effort in the western United States.

In a request made Aug. 26, the Forest Service also extended the military Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System mission through Sept. 30.

Five MAFFS aircraft are activated. Two are from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, and are operating from their home base at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, Calif. Three others -- two from Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and one from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, based in Charlotte, N.C., have been part of the MAFFS squadron operating from Boise.

Aircraft operations at Boise ended yesterday, but the command element for MAFFS will remain at Gowen Field here to coordinate with the National Interagency Fire Center. The Boise aircraft were expected at McClellan by late afternoon yesterday.

Since their initial activation June 11 to fight forest fires in southern Colorado, MAFFS aircraft have made 479 drops using 1,211,631 gallons of fire retardant. This summer, they have fought fires in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service. C-130 Hercules aircraft with MAFFS modules loaded into their cargo bays follow Forest Service lead planes, and military aircrews can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant along the leading edge of a forest fire in less than five seconds, covering an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, ground crews at a MAFFS tanker base can refill the modules in less than 12 minutes.

An interagency Defense Department and Forest Service program, MAFFS provides aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service’s needs. A military air expeditionary group exercises control over MAFFS resources at the Forest Service’s direction.

(From a 153rd Air Expeditionary Group News Release)

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