Officials from the U.S. Forest Service, through the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, have decided to end current military C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System operations as of the end of the day Sept. 5.
MAFFS aircraft and crews remain available for recall if the wildland fire situation dictates, U.S. Northern Command officials said.
In a notice to the Defense Department issued Sept. 3, the Forest Service said wildland fire activity had begun to moderate. That, along with the increased availability of civilian air tankers, has allowed the release of the military aircraft, their crews and ground support personnel.
Two MAFFS C-130s, both from the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, had remained on duty at McClellan Air Tanker Base outside of Sacramento, Calif., following the release of three others by the Forest Service. Those aircraft – one from the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing based in Cheyenne, Wyo., was slated to fly home Sept. 4. The other two, from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, will stand down at their home airfield at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Port Hueneme, Calif., where they had operated in recent days.
Since the year’s initial activation June 11, MAFFS crews have flown 572 missions and made 535 drops using 1,375,981 gallons of fire retardant. This summer, they have fought fires in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada.
MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service. MAFFS modules are loaded into the cargo bays of military C-130 aircraft. Following Forest Service lead planes, military aircrews can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant from the MAFFS modules along the leading edge of a forest fire in less than five seconds and cover an area a quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, ground crews at a MAFFS tanker base can refill the modules in less than 12 minutes.
An interagency Defense Department and Forest Service program, MAFFS provides aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private air tankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the Forest Service. A military air expeditionary group exercises control over MAFFS resources at the Forest Service’s direction.