Thursday, May 12, 2011

As aircraft return home, others arrive to maintain fire fighting capabilities

by Tom Saunders, AFNORTH Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Two Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., deployed to Texas April 26 to provide additional aerial support to contain wildland fires that have plagued Texas for several weeks.

The C-130s flew their first aerial retardant drop sorties shortly after arriving to join the 302nd Air Expeditionary Group, which is deployed to Dyess AFB in Abilene, Texas, to support the National Interagency Fire Center.

The arrival of the 302nd AW MAFFS aircraft also marked the re-deployment of aircraft from the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th AW and the Wyoming ANG's 153rd AW to their respective home stations.

"The 145th and 153rd have provided critical and timely support to the region and to the MAFFS operation as a whole," said Col. Jay Pittman, the 302nd AEG commander. "The arrival of the aircraft from Peterson allows for a seamless transition for us to continue providing valuable firefighting capabilities to the citizens of Texas as long as our support is needed."

Since April 17, aircraft assigned to the 302nd AEG have flown 44 missions, dropping 132,000 gallons of fire retardant in an attempt to contain wildfires.

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

The MAFFSs are owned by the U.S. Forest Service, a cooperative partner with the National Interagency Fire Center based in Boise, Idaho. NIFC is the lead federal agency for these fire fighting efforts, and the Department of Defense is flying in support of the NIFC mission.

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.