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NEWS | Aug. 31, 2023

California Air Guard Mobilized for Aerial Firefighting

By Master Sgt. Nicholas Carzis, 146 Airlift Wing, Public Affairs, California Air National Guard

PORT HUENEME, Calif. - Two C-130J Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped aircraft assigned to the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Colorado Springs, are mobilizing to Klamath Falls Airtanker Base in Oregon to help fight wildfires.

First Air Force (Air Forces Northern), U.S. Northern Command’s Air Component Command, oversees the Department of Defense aerial firefighting MAFFS program, which offers a “surge” capability to the U.S. Forest Service.

The increase in major fires prompted the request for continued MAFFS assets. More than 20,400 personnel are supporting 58 of the active large wildland fires across the continental United States. 

The 302AW and the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing delivered the first aerial firefighting sorties in early August with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing then rotated in to replace maintenance and aircrews supporting the MAFFS mission. 

As of Aug. 30, all four of the U.S. Air Force’s component MAFFS wings, including the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, will have traversed to Klamath Falls Airtanker Base to support wildfire suppression during the MAFFS program’s 50th anniversary. 

MAFFS has dropped more than 161,000 gallons of fire retardant in over 60 aerial firefighting sorties this fire season.

Col. Christopher F. Dougherty, commander for the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, says his wing is always ready to support wildfire suppression efforts.

“The enduring partnership between the U.S. Forest Service, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve is truly special,” he said. “Our unwavering commitment to supporting the people of our states and nation in times of natural disaster has been demonstrated repeatedly over the past 50 years and will continue well into the future.”

For those 50 years, the DOD has chosen the military C-130 to support the MAFFS mission. The C-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the MAFFS program can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than 10 seconds across a quarter-mile line. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle on the rear left side. 

MAFFS aircraft are only activated when all commercial airtankers that are part of the national airtanker fleet are fully committed or not readily available.

The National Interagency Fire Center is the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. Agencies and organizations that are part of NIFC include the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, National Association of State Foresters, and state emergency response agencies.



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