Nevada Air Guard activated to help fight fires in West

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Paula Macomber
  • 152nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

RENO, Nev. – The National Interagency Fire Center has requested one C-130 aircraft and aircrew from the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard, to aid firefighting efforts in the West.

The activation is more than a month earlier than last year, when the 152nd Airlift Wing was activated July 29. That firefighting activation lasted through Oct. 3, the longest in the unit’s history. This year's initial request lasts through July 26.

“This activation highlights the important role the military plays in assisting federal, civilian firefighting efforts, especially with that need coming much earlier this year than past years to combat increased fire activity across the American West,” said Col. Jeremy Ford, 152nd Airlift Wing commander. “The 152nd Airlift Wing embraces this incredibly vital domestic operations mission and our ability to help save life and property threatened by wildland fires.”

The aircraft, operating the USDA Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, will depart Reno June 26 for its initial deployment at CAL FIRE’s McClellan Reload Base in Sacramento, California. The crew will assist federal and private firefighting assets around the region as needed.

Military units have provided a surge capacity with MAFFS since 1974 but are only activated after private contracted assets are exhausted and the forest service deems additional support necessary.

The 152nd Airlift Wing, known as the High Rollers, is one of four military C-130 units around the nation equipped with MAFFS for large-scale wildland firefighting. The Reno unit will join the 146th Airlift Wing out of Channel Islands, California, to help battle fires in the region.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported this week that 50 large-scale wildland fires have burned 543,099 acres in 11 states, with new large fires in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho and Nevada. More than 9,180 wildland firefighters and 17 Type 1 and Type 2 incident management teams are assigned to fires, according to NIFC.

So far this year, 29,362 fires have burned 1,164,555 acres across the nation, NIFC said.

MAFFS equipment, loaded into the cargo compartment of a C-130 aircraft, can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in six seconds through a nozzle on the rear left side of the plane. The U.S. Forest Service owns MAFFS equipment and supplies retardant, while each of the four military units provides C-130 aircraft, maintenance, support personnel and flight crews to fly the missions.

The 152nd Airlift Wing recently became the first “combat coded” Guard unit in the nation to upgrade its entire C-130 fleet with the NP-2000 propeller modification. This modification swapped out four-bladed propellers with eight-bladed modular NP-2000 propellers. This increased performance and flying capabilities of the fleet.

“This is especially important for the extremely challenging MAFFS mission, while flying in extreme hazards including flying low, slow and heavy while dropping water or retardant,” Ford said.