The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is negotiating an agreement with the California Air National Guard to enable Channel Island National Guard base (map) in Ventura County near Oxnard to be used as a reload base for air tankers working on wildfires. For years the base, the home of the 146th Airlift Wing, has been capable of reloading two C-130s stationed at the base outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) which can be slipped into the cargo hold enabling them to drop 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on fires, but other state or federal air tankers have not been allowed to use the base. John Winder, the CAL FIRE Assistant Deputy Director of Fire Protection Operations, told Wildfire Today that the goal of the agreement is for any military, state, or federal air tanker to be able to use the base for reloading. The U.S. Forest Service would also have to approve the use of the base before their contracted air tankers could use it since the federal agency has different requirements for reload bases than CAL FIRE.
The reload facility would be call-when-needed, most likely operated by CAL FIRE personnel who could have it up and running a few hours after being notified.
According to Mr. Winder, the Channel Islands base is one of only six locations in California where MAFFS air tankers can reload, with the others being Chico, Fresno, San Bernardino, Victorville, and Paso Robles. Not every base has runways, taxiways, and ramps that are capable of handling an aircraft the size and weight of a C-130.
The California Air National Guard C-130s can be activated for use on wildfires within the state fairly easily with approval from the Governor. To be used outside the state requires a more complex federal-level approval governed by an agreement specifying that the aircraft be able to respond within 48 hours, but they usually are mobilized within 36 hours. Both the state and federal approvals require some level of previous commitment of standard non-military air tankers on going fires.
Thanks go out to Johnny