Military airplanes activated to help fight wildfires

Posted at 1:23 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 15:23:40-04

BOISE, Idaho — For the last 50 years, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise has helped coordinated firefighting efforts with different agencies to control fires in the west.

The two Department of Defense activating two C-130 airplanes into the mix as wildfire fire season ramps up is an example of this cooperation.

Both of these planes will get equipped with a USDA Forest Service MAFFS system, the acronym stands for a modular airborne firefighting system.

"We use those MAFFS to augment our firefighting capabilities when our commercial tankers are either fully committed or not readily available," said Kim Christensen of the United States Department of Agriculture. "MAFFS are very effective in wildland firefighting."

MAFFS gets loaded into the back of an emptied out C-130, this system can dump up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than ten seconds across a quarter-mile line.

Both of the activated military airplanes are from the 146th Airlift Wing, a National Guard unit out of California.

"I think MAFFS is the perfect joint endeavor between the Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture in the role of saving lives and property here in the United States," said Col. Bryan Allen of the 146th.

It's an example of how NIFC helps coordinate resources from different federal, state and local agencies to fight wildfires.

"Right now, we have above-average wildland fire potential in a number of our western states," said Christensen. "Wildland fires know no boundaries."