Colorado AF reservists fighting California fires from the sky

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daniel Butterfield
  • 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped aircraft arrived here from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, Aug. 3, to assist in fighting the Rocky Fire northwest of Sacramento, California, the same day.

They joined two Air National Guard MAFFS-equipped C-130J Super Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, California, which had been helping fight the fire since Aug. 1.

"We were flying within a couple hours of arriving here," said Maj. Brian McReynolds, who is a MAFFS aircraft commander for the first time this season.

The Rocky Fire has burned 62,000 acres as of the morning of Aug. 4, and is only 12 percent contained. Thousands of residents have been evacuated so far. The dry, windy conditions could mean an even more dangerous fire if the environment does not improve.

"It was challenging," McReynolds said. "There were multiple fires in one location, smoke, (and) other air traffic."

The first day all four C-130s fought the Rocky Fire, they flew a combined 22 sorties and dropped close to 63,000 gallons of retardant to establish fire containment lines.

According to the Air National Guard mission commander, Maj. Andrew Miller, they are expecting to fly out of McClellan Air Tanker Base for the next several weeks.

The Defense Department MAFFS-equipped C-130s are operated by four military airlift wings: The Wyoming ANG’s 153rd AW; California ANG’s 146th AW; North Carolina ANG’s 145th AW; and the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd AW.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system, owned by the U.S. Forest Service. MAFFS can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long and 100-feet wide, according to the Forest Service. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

The DOD, through U.S. Northern Command at Peterson AFB, provides unique military support to firefighting efforts when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the secretary of Defense. The diverse mission assets are prepared to respond quickly and effectively to protect lives, property, critical infrastructure and natural resources, and can include, but are not limited to, MAFFS, military helicopters and ground forces capable of supporting the firefighting efforts.