C-130s in Texas seeing little use, but Red Flag Warning looms

Rock House fire map Texas 4-25-2011
Map showing heat detected on the Rock House fire, north of Fort Davis, Texas. The red and orange areas on the April 25, 2011 map represents heat detected by satellites within the previous 24 hours. The yellow areas, since January 1. USFS/MODIS

The four C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) air tankers that were dispatched to Texas have been mostly sitting on the tarmac at Dyess Air Force Base in Midland. Since they were mobilized from their bases in Wyoming, North Carolina, and California on April 18 the military air tankers have made a total of one drop, consisting of 3,000 gallons of retardant. Texas Governor Rick Perry requested aerial firefighting assistance from the federal government about the time that the recent fire siege was declining, as more humid air moved into the state.

MAFFS 2 C-130, So Car 4-28-2010, photo Nicholas Carzis, USAF
File photo of a C-130 MAFFS 2 making a training drop in South Carolina, April 28, 2010. Photo by Nicholas Carzis, USAF

The two MAFFS air tankers mobilized from Colorado on April 16 to help fight the fires in Mexico that are now 30-40 miles south of the Texas border have been a little busier, making 8 drops for a total of 24,000 gallons of retardant or water. They are working out of Laughlin Air Force Base which is about 60 miles from the fires in Mexico. The MODIS fire detection maps have shown no large concentrations of heat on these fires over the last six to seven days.

Another Red Flag Warning issued for the area of the Rock House fire

A red flag warning was in effect for Sunday for strong winds and low humidity, and another one was issued for Monday and Tuesday in the area of the Rock House fire and the Davis Mountains for “extremely critical high impact fire weather conditions on Tuesday”. Due to fire activity, lack of reliable communications, and firefighter safety, the crews on the Rock House fire Saturday had to back out of the canyons in the Davis Mountains to seek gentler terrain. Today that strategic retreat remains in effect. Dozers cannot be used on the steep slopes and aerial resources have been ineffective. Yesterday the fire continued to move (see the red areas on the map above), making some significant runs on the west side of Madera Canyon.

The Rock House fire has burned 215,275 acres and is 75% contained.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.