Two Wyoming Air National Guard 153rd Airlift Wing C-130 cargo planes are battling the California wildfires from the air with the modular airborne firefighting system.
The aircraft and crews began releasing fire retardant on June 28 to help contain multiple fires throughout California. Flying out of the McClellan Airport in Sacramento, Calif., the crews opened with two sorties, or two different flights to drop the retardant.
The Wyoming Air National Guard is one of four National Guard and Reserve units in the country trained to operate the MAFFS units. Each MAFFS unit can drop 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in 8 – 10 seconds.
“There’s a lot more fire than there was last year,” Lt. Col. Wylie Walno, 153rd Operations Group MAFFS coordinator, said. “The flights are real hazy. Visibility during the past two days has been down to three miles or less.”
Walno said Wyoming crews flew four sorties on June 29, over the course of six hours, to the Piute Fire, 17 miles northeast of Caliente, Calif. “I can’t tell you this is any worse or any better than any other year,” he said.
The National Interagency Fire Center activates the National Guard and Reserve MAFFS units when other fire fighting resources are exhausted. Besides Wyoming, MAFFS equipped C-130s from the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard; and the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Colorado Springs, Colo., are flying in California.
The Wyoming Air National Guard has performed its MAFFS mission for more than 30 years. This is the unit’s first MAFFS activation since it was called to battle California wildfires in October 2007.