Military C-130 aircraft and the 747 activated for Southern California Fires

MAFFS
File photo of MAFFS 1, based at Cheyenne, but is seen landing at Fresno, August 5, 2017. Photo by L.S. Braun.

This article first appeared on Fire Aviation.

(Originally published at 11:53 a.m. PST December 5, 2017)

Two California National Guard C-130’s have been activated by the state’s Governor to assist with the wildfires in Southern California. Two large fires have burned a total of  49,000 acres since Monday afternoon — the Creek Fire at Ventura and the Thomas Fire near Sylmar.

A spokesperson for the 146th Airlift Wing said the aircraft have been activated, they are being prepared, and the Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) are being installed, but they have not yet received the launch orders.

The MAFFS, which can be installed in a C-130 in a few hours, holds up to 3,000 gallons of retardant.

With the very strong Santa Ana winds currently blowing in Southern California, it remains to be seen if it will possible, safe, or effective to use fixed wing aircraft over the fires. Air tankers have to fly low and slow, and usually over rough terrain. Strong winds can make this unsafe and the retardant can also be blown far off the target.

Very few air tankers on U.S. Forest Service contracts are still active this time of the year. Last Friday there were only four, all in southern California; two CL-415 scoopers and two MD-87’s.

The 747 SuperTanker has also been activated on a CAL FIRE Call When Needed contract and will fly from Marana, Arizona to McClellan near Sacramento today, arriving at about 3 or 4 p.m.

The scoopers are due to end their mandatory availability period on December 6, but it is possible they could be extended due to the current fire situation in southern California. In September the USFS cancelled the last four years of the 5-year contract for the scoopers. The cancellation was to take effect on December 6, 2017.

Beaver Fire, MD-87, T-103, South Dakota,
An MD-87, probably Tanker 103, drops on the Beaver Fire west of Wind Cave National Park September 13, 2017. Photo by Herb Ryan used with permission.

Author: Bill Gabbert

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

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2 thoughts on “Military C-130 aircraft and the 747 activated for Southern California Fires”

  1. We should use military helicopters much more in Southern California for fighting fires! The Navy and Marine pilots are very experienced and well trained for this.
    I was involved with the very first fire fighting Squadron HSC 85 on NASNI that was used in San Diego to help fight the second big fire !
    Only after we were not allowed to help fight in the first fire, and had aircraft and Bambi buckets poised in Ramona Airport and watch Squadron members homes burn!
    So years ago.. we train the military to work with state and local agencies and speak their language.
    These horrific fire situations that seem to be coming commonplace with every large wind event is when are military force needs to be called upon.
    This an extremely experienced Squadron that has been, fighting fire and training on San Clemente Island for many years.
    The helicopter Force we have here in Southern California could be a huge help. The men and women I served with would be more than happy to help in these horrible fire Situation’s.
    We should implement the military much faster and communicate better with all of the local and State Fire agencies! We have to get better….we need to use all of our resources!
    John Koenig

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