Wyoming Air Guard sends crew to help fight Colorado wildfires

 

ZACH SPADT

A Wyoming Air National Guard airman looks on as crews install a modular airborne firefighting system (MAFFS) on a C-130 Thursday, July 5. A C-130 and its crew were activated to assist with battling wildfires in Colorado.

CHEYENNE - Airmen with the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing were hard at work preparing for a deployment last week.

They weren't going to a combat zone, nor were they training for it.

The 153rd was preparing to help battle wildfires in Colorado.

Since the 1970s, the U.S. Forest Service has partnered with the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard to help fight fires. Wyoming's Air Guard unit flies C-130 cargo aircraft. A typical combat mission can involve troop transport or even flying armored vehicles to various areas.

But when civilian aerial firefighting assets run out during the firefighting season, the military gets the call to help fight forest fires.

"The neat thing about the C-130 is its versatility," said MSgt Chris Reese. "We can haul anything from vehicles, people, equipment - anything. That's what makes this mission fun."

This mission's cargo is the Modular Airborne FireFighting System.

Four military units fly the system which can hold up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant, including the Wyoming Air National Guard. MAFFS can deploy its cargo in as little as five seconds thanks to an air compressor system.

Following a spotter plane, the C-130 flies "slow and heavy" over fires before dropping retardant over an area up to a quarter-mile long.

The 153rd will be deployed to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. They don't know what specific fires they'll be fighting as there are several in the area.

MAFFS system is a "24-hour" system, meaning when the aircrew is activated, they should be on the fire within a 24-hour period.

Airmen from the Wyoming Air National Guard were expected to be on the fire for at least five days.


 

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