One of the MAFFS currently training over
Northern California at McClellan Air Base.
Photo: YubaNet

SACRAMENTO, Calif. April 26, 2018 – All week long, low-flying lead planes and C-130s will be training over the Tahoe and Shasta-Trinity National Forests. Locals will see and hear the the planes on their way to secluded training pots where water drops will be made. These exercises bring together all four Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) C-130 airlift wings – Air National Guard units from California, Nevada and Wyoming plus an Air Force Reserve Unit from Colorado – with the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and local fire agencies at the McClellan Reload Base in Sacramento.

The modular firefighting system
loaded in a C 130 can be refilled
in as little as 8 minutes.
Photo: YubaNet

Air Force Col. James DeVere, who is in charge of the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado and also the commander of the MAFFS group, has logged over 6,000 hours flying one of these firefighting aircraft. Older models of the C 130 are crewed by a pilot, a copilot, a navigator, a flight mechanic and two loadmasters. DeVere explained to YubaNet some of the mechanics, “The MAFFS can release 3,000 gallons of retardant in 6 seconds if needed. Once the planes are loaded with the retardant modules, which takes about 24 hours these days – down from 72 hours – we are ready to augment the firefighting capacity for any agency.” Reloading the retardant tanks takes only a few minutes, as Guard members demonstrated yesterday at McClellan.

The C-130 planes can fly as low as 150 ft over a fire and as slow as 120 knots, making them ideal for fighting fires in rugged terrain. Their job is to “paint” ridgelines and contain a wildfire within its existing footprint while ground resources will extinguish the fire.

Photo YubaNet

U.S. Forest Service Deputy Director for Fire and Aviation Kim Christensen is normally stationed at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho. NIFC coordinates resources throughout the country, sending Incident Management Teams, firefighters, supplies, engines and, of course, air resources where needed. Yesterday, Christensen was happy to talk about the cooperation between the military, the Forest Services and other agencies. “The MAFFS provide surge capacity when our contract aircraft are fully committed, as is often the case during high fire season.” She pointed to the long history (40 years) of military assistance during fire season and spoke highly of the effective partnerships between all agencies.

Photo YubaNet

“It doesn’t matter what patch you’re wearing, during a fire we all work together” said a North Carolina Air National Guard servicemember.  The 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, California; the 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nevada; the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming and the Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado will continue to train with the Forest Service’s Region 5 lead planes while landing and refueling at CAL FIRE’s Reload Base.

Come high fire season, all these men and women will once again seamlessly work together to protect communities in California and throughout the country.

MAFFS can be activated by governors in states with Air National Guard MAFFS units, or by the federal government. All MAFFS units are operated by the U.S. Forest Service.

The 146th Airlift Wing Public Affairs team shot some video of water drops on the Tahoe National Forest.

2 replies on “Forest Service, Air National Guard and cooperators conduct MAFFS training at McClellan for upcoming high fire season”

  1. Why does the Fire Service choose to “practice” these very low-level runs over densely populated areas? Our home at 3609 Bausell Street Sacramento is in the direct flight path of many of these planes.

    Last year a mysterious white substance was sprayed all over my roses around the time planes were flying overhead. Could that have been fire retardant accidentally released during a practice run??

    Advance notice of these flights would have been appreciated. I had to research online to learn why planes were continually flying low over my house.

    1. The Forest Service and CAL FIRE train from the McClellan base yearly to be ready to stop fires from getting into the populated areas. The fire retardant is red or pink by the way – accidental release is not likely to happen given the triple safety in place.

      There was advance notice published, but with the flood of daily news news you could have missed it.

      Just know that if a fire comes close to your area, you will be happy to hear the tankers – they just might save your life and your family by giving the firefighters on the ground the time to defend your home.

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