By Senior Master Sgt. Paula Macomber, 152nd Airlift Wing
/ Published August 06, 2021
Air National Guard C-130, MAFFS 9, out of Reno, Nev. drops retardant on the Beckwourth Complex Fire July 9, 2021 near Frenchman Lake in N. California. Many resources, including the three Air National Guard C-130s--two from Nevada and one from California will assist in battling the Beckwourth Complex Fire in Northern California. The Air Force C-130 MAFFS-equipped aircraft, as requested by the National Interagency Fire Center and approved by the Secretary of Defense, are providing unique fire-fighting capabilities. The DoD, through the commander, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), provides support to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in conducting wildland fire fighting operations as requested.
The Nevada Air National Guard is only half-way through the fire year and already has amassed 434 drops with 1.2M gallons of retardant as of August 5, 2021. The totals from the entire last year’s fire year were 489 drops and 1.3M gallons of retardant. Earlier last month, the High Rollers’ participation in the MAFFS mission this year was extended to Aug. 26 at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC).
“The teams are putting in extremely long days assisting with these fires because the need is so great,” said Brig. Gen. William Betts, First Air Force, (Air Forces Northern), vice commander. “Airmen flew drops on 18 fires so far and have relayed the immense sense of pride they have when helping our nation.”
The Air Force C-130 aircraft assigned to units in California, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming are dropping fire retardant using the U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting (MAFFS) equipped aircraft.
Aircrews, maintenance crews and support personnel undergo special NIFC training and certification to perform these missions each year.
“The ground crews also have worked especially hard ensuring the aircraft are fit for the day’s challenges,” said Col. Jeremy Ford, 152nd Airlift Wing Commander. “It’s the teamwork at the tactical level between our maintainers and aircrews, and teamwork at the operational level when we work with our interagency partners, like the U.S. Forest Service flying the lead planes, that allows us to perform this vital mission for our neighbors across the west.”
The 152nd Airlift Wing has one aircraft assisting along with one from California’s 146th Airlift Wing, one from Wyoming’s 153rd Airlift Wing, and an additional two aircraft from the 302nd Airlift Wing—the reserve unit from Colorado.
All MAFFS units are requested through the commander of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) to provide support to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in conducting wildland fire fighting operations within the United States. First Air Force (Air Forces Northern), USNORTHCOM’s Air Component Command, is the DoD’s operational lead for the aerial military efforts.
The initial request for support was June 26 through July 26, more than a month earlier than last year’s firefighting year. The 152nd Airlift Wing supported NIFC July 29 through Oct. 3, 2020, the longest firefighting activation in the unit’s history.
The C-130s are operating from McClellan Air Tanker Reload Base in Sacramento, California. From there, they assist federal and private firefighting assets around the region as needed.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center as of August 5, 100 large fires have burned 1,947,811 acres across 14 states—not to be confused with the year-to-date total fires being 38,707 fires which have burned a total of 3,361,159 acres of land. Several large fires in California displayed extreme fire behavior, with the Dixie Fire increasing by nearly 24,000 acres, the Monument and Antelope Fires adding more than 8,000 acres, and the McFarland Fire gaining about 5,100 acres.
The MAFFS program is a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Defense (DoD). The U.S. Forest Service owns the MAFFS equipment and supplies the fire retardant, while the DoD provides the C-130 H and J model aircraft, flight crews, and maintenance and support personnel to fly the missions.