AF deploys remaining MAFFS to fight fires

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Beginning Saturday, June 30, eight military C-130 aircraft, each equipped with the U.S. Forest Service's Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) will be operating out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., to assist with firefighting efforts in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Two MAFFS-equipped C-130s from the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing and the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing have been working out of Peterson Air Force Base, located in Colorado Springs, Colo., since June 25.

On June 28, the U.S. Forest Service requested the remaining four MAFFS units be activated for the Rocky Mountain region. U.S. Northern Command, the Department of Defense organization responsible for providing civil support, approved the request and agreed to activate the units late that night.

The California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing, from Channel Islands, and the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing, from Charlotte, will join the 153rd and the 302nd.

This is the first time since 2008 that all eight military aircraft have been activated at one time, said Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander. In that year, the aircraft were stationed at McClellan Airpark in Sacramento, Calif., to fight fires in that state.

"There have been other times, as well, like Boise in 2006," said Champlin, a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard who, as this year's AEG commander, has tactical control over the MAFFS aircraft.

Although all eight C-130s will operate from Peterson Air Force Base, for now, on which fire they will drop retardant depends on the daily fire situation in the region. The U.S. Forest Service also may choose to base one or more aircraft in other operating areas.

"They are assigned to fires on a priority basis for each day," said Scott Fisher, with the U.S. Forest Service. "Airtankers may also be re-assigned during the day, based on a shift in priority for the Rocky Mountain coordination center."

(Courtesy 153rd Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs)