MAFFS air tankers assist crew in trouble

A TV station in Sacramento, California has a story about Military MAFFS C-130 air tankers making some retardant drops to assist a hand crew that was in a difficult situation on the RIM fire recently.

I am intrigued by the “common operating picture” that was mentioned by the national guard gentleman.

Our main article about the Rim Fire at Yosemite National Park is updated daily with maps and current information.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills. Google+

7 thoughts on “MAFFS air tankers assist crew in trouble”

  1. MAFFS is “classified’? Hum. And I and so tired of reporters calling crews “teams”.
    Just a grumpy old retired firefighter.

  2. The reason MAFFS is classified is that if the public ever found out how poorly the system works, they’d be questioning the never-ending use and cost of these flying aerosal cans.
    The ‘common operating picture’ referred to in the clip sounds like some kind of military resource tracking program, but with firefighting crews identified instead of soldiers. I’m unfamiliar with what they use, but the technology is simple enough for a blended military/civilian use. Do the crews have a sat modem on their vehicles, or are their locations plotted by their reported positions?
    Now…about this 25-person crew in danger of entrapment. I’m surprised this happened (or did it?) – I mean, it’s been forever since we saw a similar event on the fireline.

  3. Really?? Really???? Good thing that reporter knows how those smaller aircraft can “really get in there” as opposed to the DC-10… What a crock…

  4. The reporter was simply misinformed. The “common operating picture” is likely part of a classified system the Army uses for tracking friendly forces in combat. The reporter probably assumed that that capability is part of the MAFFS system on board the C-130, which it is not.

  5. I’m very surprised that the crew of “25” was in danger and we have not heard more about it. I actually contacted an information officer from the CalFire to see if any more light could be shed on this “incident.” This is very serious, despite the fact that the misinformed reporter mentioned it in a rather nonchalant manner.

    Also, to me, a misinformed reporter is synomous with an uninformed reporter, but then there are so few that are really informed and/or experienced.

    And thank you to the person who brought up the issue of the high costs and not-so-solid performance of the MAFFS program. And this is coming from someone with extensive ground, airtanker base, air-attack and incident commander (IC3) experience. Wish it weren’t true, but it is.

  6. The “classified” system referred to, like “R” said, is not the MAFFS retardant system, but probably is the system that provides the “joint operating picture” which can produce a map that identifies “friendlies” and “hostiles”, like in this handy little piece of equipment. The Predator flying over the fire has the ability to track the fire as well as humans and other firefighting resources. The people operating the Predator at March Air Force Base probably identified the 25 firefighters shown by the Predator as “friendlies” and they were represented as a green dot, as referred to by the MAFFS person being interviewed. And this information was available in the MAFFS cockpit.

    A system that can track the real-time progress of the fire and firefighters on the ground….this should be our Holy Grail.

    The equipment to track fire resources exists now, off the shelf. Many forward-thinking police, EMS, and fire departments use them. The fire could be tracked also using off the shelf equipment installed in an air supervision module, a helicopter, or a UAV.

    If situational awareness equipment like this had been available it possibly could have saved the lives of the 19 firefighters on the Yarnell Hill Fire and the 5 firefighters on the Esperanza Fire. In both cases the 24 firefighters, their Division Supervisors, and the Operations Section Chiefs did not know where the fire was in relation to the firefighters.

    And if you think about it, we could make a list of the fatality fires for which a lack of situational awareness was the major factor in the deaths of firefighters.

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