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Guardsmen, reservists help battle western wildfires

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air reserve components are providing crews and planes to support civilian firefighting efforts in the West, the commander of the effort said in a DOD News interview.

When civilian authorities are strained, they can call on eight C-130 Hercules equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system, said Col. Charles D. Davis III, the commander of Air Expeditionary Group Wildland Firefighting. Davis is with the North Carolina Air National Guard and is based at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, for the effort.

When civilian firefighters "need a surge capability, they call on us," Davis said.

The aircraft come from four different wings -- three from the Air Guard and one from the Air Force Reserve.

For the last few days, crews have battled forest fires in Northern Utah. The aircraft launched from Boise and flew six sorties, carrying a 3,000-gallon tank filled with fire retardant.

"We fall right in line and drop the liquid," Davis said.

The aircraft use prearranged tanker bases to reload. So while the aircraft launch from Boise, by using the tanker bases they are able to "fight the fire all day long," he said.

The aircraft don't put the fires out, Davis said, noting that rain is the only thing that will end the danger.

"We're more containment," he said. "We do not put (the retardant) on the flames. We put it around the fire to stop it from expanding."

The aircraft and crews come from the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard, the 146th Airlift Wing from the California Air Guard, the 153rd Airlift Wing from Wyoming and the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

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