Air Force Flies in for Wildfire Help
Photo by northcom.mil
Jill Hare | FireLink
April 28, 2011
With civilian firefighters stretched to the limit battling wildfires throughout Texas, the Air Force and Air National Guard are adding support to the local and state efforts already in place with new aerial firefighting equipment.
FireLink recently heard first-hand from U.S. Air Force Col. Jack H. “Jay” Pittman, commander of 302nd Air Wing, about these efforts in a roundtable interview with reporters.
Pittman reported that in addition to the 302nd Air Wing, three other wings have dedicated resources to help fight Texas fires, including the 145th, 146th and 153rd.
The firefighting missions have been carried out using C-130s equipped with the latest version of the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System.
New airborne firefighting system is a self-contained tank that carries upwards of 4000 gallons of carbon fiber retardant. Since April 17th, the MAFFS II system has been deployed on 90 missions and dropped a total of 264,000 gallons of fire retardant on Texas fires, Pittman said.
Tactical air controllers were paired with local firefighting crews on the ground to direct drops where they were most needed. Air Force officials say the federal involvement relies heavily on regional information and requests from local officials to direct resources.
Crews flying C-130s owned by the U.S. Forrest Service have been ready to go on short notice and eager to help local firefighters on the ground. The aircraft is usually used for training purposes, but training has taken a back seat to helping protect Texas residents, say Air Force officials.
While local and state efforts far surpass the Air Force’s involvement at this point, Pittman said he’s “proud of our mission” and “stand ready to support any additional fires around the U.S.”