The commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command announced that the C-130 Modular Airborne Fire-Fighting System fleet will resume operations July 3 in support of the National Interagency Fire Center and its firefighters on the front lines in several states.
Operational flying was suspended for one day to review flying and safety procedures, in the context of what is known so far about the crash of a MAFFS C-130 while fighting South Dakota’s White Draw Fire.
A MAFFS-equipped C-130 from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing crashed at about 6:30 p.m., MDT, July 1.
“There were casualties, and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were injured and those who lost their lives,” U.S. Northern Command officials said in a written statement. “The family members of these airmen are especially on our minds. We will provide further details on the status of the casualties soon.”
An official accident investigation into the crash is ongoing, with the support of everyone concerned. Next-of-kin of the casualties have been notified.
The July 1 crash was the first in the 40-year history of the MAFFS program, a joint Defense Department and U.S. Forest Service program that provides additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the Forest Service’s needs.
MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, covering an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the agency is deeply saddened by this tragic incident. “The agency fully supports the decision by the military to stand down its MAFFS operation to address the needs of personnel and families and ensure the safety of the mission when it resumes,” he said. “The agency will continue to allocate available firefighting assets according to the prioritization of incidents.”
USNORTHCOM and its Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard aircrews and support personnel are fully committed to their critical joint mission of helping to protect lives and property in our homeland. In support of our NIFC teammates, we are resuming MAFFS C-130 launches and firefighting.