Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dyess Airmen assist with Texas wildfires

by Tech. Sgt. Robert Wollenberg, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- Members of the 7th Bomb Wing and 317th Airlift Group here are lending a helping hand in support of firefighting efforts throughout South Texas.

From logistics to meals to maintenance, Airmen here will support four C-130 Hercules aircraft equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems and more than 60 crew members as they help battle wildfires under the direction of the Joint Forces Air Component Commander for Air Forces Northern at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

"Over the weekend, Dyess Airmen quickly responded to a call from Texas for wildfire support," said Col. James Murray, the 7th Mission Support Group commander. "In a matter of hours, the wing prepared for and received four specially configured C-130 aircraft and 80 aircrew and support personnel who will provide vital airborne fire fighting support to the state of Texas and surrounding areas. The aircraft will start flight operations (April 18), flying numerous missions to drop fire retardant agent on areas designated by the U.S. Forestry Service."

Two of the four aircraft are from the California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing. The third is from the 153rd AW in Wyoming, and the fourth is from the 145th AW in North Carolina.

The MAFFS 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 one-quarter-of-a-mile long by 60-feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

"Being able to provide airborne firefighting support to the citizens of Texas is job #1 for the MAFFS," said Brig. Gen Robert Branyon, the deputy Joint Forces Air Component commander. "Whether it's a humanitarian effort, evacuee assistance, search and rescue, or dropping food and medical supplies into unreachable areas, we're poised and ready to help in any way possible."

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.

"The wing has responded magnificently and we will continue to provide whatever the state of Texas needs to get these fires under control," Colonel Murray said. "We are ready to sustain their operations indefinitely, if required, to ensure property and lives are safe. Between the 7th BW and the 317th AG, we'll make sure they keep flying."

The MAFFS is owned by the USDA Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agencies and organizations with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression that comprises the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.