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NEWS | June 25, 2008

North Carolina Air National Guard fights California wildfires

By Lt. Col. Rose Dunlap North Carolina National Guard

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The North Carolina Air National Guard deployed four C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft with flight crews and support personnel to Northern California June 23 to assist the U.S. Forest Service and the governor in firefighting efforts to contain, control, and extinguish wildfires.

The aircraft are a part of the North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing based at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

The aircraft with nearly 50 North Carolina guardmembers are conducting airborne firefighting missions from a staging area near Sacramento, Calif. Two C-130s carry modular airborne fire fighting systems (MAFFS).

Since 1974, MAFFS has saved land, lives and property from wild land fires in the United States and abroad. MAFFS is only activated when all other air tanker resources are committed.

The MAFFS mission equips C-130s with a firefighting apparatus that is loaded into the aircraft's cargo area. The MAFFS unit itself is a series of pressurized tanks that hold 3,000 gallons of flame-retardant liquid.

Directed by ground crews, and led to the fire site by a U.S. Forest service lead plane, MAFFS aircraft drop retardant along the leading edge of a fire to block the spread of flames.

The North Carolina contingent is operating two C-130s equipped with MAFFS modules. Two other C-130s are transporting equipment and personnel.

All three Air Force MAFFS units are in the reserve components including two in the Air National Guard and one in the Air Force Reserve. In addition to North Carolina's unit, there are the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing from Colorado Springs, Colo.

The length of this mission is undetermined and will depend on the demands of the firefighting efforts.