CAL FIRE seeks agreement to use Channel Island National Guard base to reload air tankers

Channel Island MAFFS C-130 2012
A C-130J MAFFS from the 146th Airlift Wing during recertification, March 7, 2012. Photo by Senior Airman Nic Carzis.

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

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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.

3 thoughts on “CAL FIRE seeks agreement to use Channel Island National Guard base to reload air tankers”

  1. your article has another inaccuracy. Santa Maria Airport is also equipped and an approved facility for MAFFS reloads.

  2. Bill a slight correction for you. Victorville is no longer a reload base. Cal Fire pulled all of their equipment out of Victorville also all of the loading equipment has been removed. Fox is a MAFFS qualified now.

  3. Hopefully the Gov of CA will see the validity of this. Thinking outside of the USFS box may need to happen this year.

    Until the USFS has a REAL strategic plan for the future…all reload bases that service C130’s ought to be manned or personed up with folks already familiar with C130 ops.

    Reload bases OUGHT to have standard, acrossthe board, transparent, no BS, State vs Fed reqs on tanker reload bases. State or Fed reload bases ought not be different, but some of us know about the proverbial turf protection.

    Tanker reload bases ought to be “interagency” standard without State or Fed delineation. But we all know the real practicality of that in the real world!!

    Kinda like ICS…you know…. same for everyone! But somebody will say we need that Federal knowhow showing the States how its done, huh?


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