Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Peterson Space Observer

Aerial firefighting continues against Rocky Mountain fires

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Stephen J. Collier)
An air tanker “pit” crew prepares a fire retardant compressor for operation June 24, 2013, as C-130 Hercules prepare to depart Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Portions of Peterson AFB’s flightline were converted into an air tanker base for aerial firefighting operations the same day, providing additional capabilities to both military and civilian air tankers. Aircraft from both the California Air National Guard (center) and the Air Force Reserve (right) are featured.

By Tech. Sgt. Stephen J. Collier

302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — Air Force firefighting aircraft continued dropping thousands of gallons of fire retardant June 24 in an effort to contain growing Rocky Mountain wildland fires.

Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard C-130 Hercules equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System performed two drops against Colorado’s West Fork Complex, dropping 6,000 gallons of retardant. The MAFFS aircraft also provided firefighters on the ground with two fire retardant drops on a small fire in Jefferson County, Colo., near Waterton Canyon, providing 3,000 gallons there.

As of 9 a.m., July 25, the West Fork Complex, consisting of three fires burning close to one another, totaled 75,150 acres with zero percent containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The East Peak fire, located about 120 miles east of the West Fork Complex and burning near Walsenburg, Colo., totaled 13,491 acres and is the second-largest burning in Colorado. It was last reported at 50 percent containment.

Red-flag warnings were still in effect for much of the Rocky Mountain region, meaning low humidity, high winds and increased temperatures were expected.

Since MAFFS aircraft first provided support to the Black Forest fire June 12, more than 117,000 gallons of fire retardant have been dropped on Colorado wildfires. Both aircraft and Airmen from the AF Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing and the 146th AW from the California ANG are providing MAFFS assistance to the U.S. Forest Service. The 145th AW from the North Carolina Air National Guard is providing the MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group command element directly coordinating the use of MAFFS with the U.S. Forest Service at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

The MAFFS units are owned by the U.S. Forest Service, one of several federal and state government agencies and organizations with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression that comprise the NIFC.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system that 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 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command, provides unique military support to firefighting efforts when requested by the NIFC and approved by the Secretary of Defense. These 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.

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