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Nevada, California Guard Called to Idaho for Firefighting Mission

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

RENO, Nev. – The Nevada and California National Guard aerial firefighting crews are in Idaho to support wildland firefighting operations in the Northwest.

The National Interagency Fire Center requested two Department of Defense C-130 aircraft equipped with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems. One C-130H from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno, and one C-130J from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, Port Hueneme, and crews arrived at Boise Airport in Idaho Sept. 9 and were standing by for flying on behalf of a DOD-approved USDA Forest Service Request.

“We greatly appreciate the assistance of our military partners,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the USDA Forest Service. “These aircraft will help provide additional capacity for aerial firefighting.”

Military C-130s that can be converted into air tankers provide a critical “surge” capability when commercial air tankers are not readily available.

“We take to heart our team’s effort to help protect property and critical infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of saving lives,” said Lt. Gen. Kirk Pierce, commander, First Air Force - Air Forces Northern. “Our MAFFS-trained team of professionals completed rigorous annual aerial wildland firefighting training in April with the USDA Forest Service to ensure they were fully prepared for the wildfire season.”

First Air Force - Air Forces Northern, headquartered at Tyndall AFB, Florida, U.S. Northern Command’s Air Component Command, is the DOD’s operational lead for the military aerial wildland firefighting. 

So far this fire year, 49,193 fires have burned 6,311,144 acres across the nation, according to the NIFC website.

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.

“We’ve trained and prepared well to be called into action this fire season,” said Col. Evan Kirkwood, 152nd Air Expeditionary Group commander. “As Citizen-Airmen, we are always honored to help out our community, state and nation. Last year was an unprecedented fire year, and I continue to be humbled by the outstanding work showcased by the amazing Airmen I serve with.”

Last year was the second busiest MAFFS activation in the 49 years the C-130 military aircraft have supported the U.S. Forest Service. It was a notable season for all MAFFS crews, including the High Rollers from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing, Reno; the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, Port Hueneme; Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado; and the Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Air tankers help build containment lines with retardant to slow the growth of wildland fires. The MAFFS aircraft can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than 10 seconds across a quarter-mile line. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle on the rear left side.

NIFC is the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. It includes the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, U.S. Fire Administration, National Association of State Foresters, and state emergency response agencies.