Four airmen killed in South Dakota air tanker crash honored

MAFFS 7 crashed July 1, 2012 in South Dakota at the White Draw Fire

building dedication MAFFS 7 Air National Guard
Rob David, son of fallen U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan S. David, delivers a speech during the Building Dedication Ceremony in honor of his father and three other members of the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) seven crew at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, June 9, 2019. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Ballard, 145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard.

(This article was first published at Fire Aviation)

Yesterday four buildings at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport were dedicated to the four airmen who were killed in an aircraft crash July 1, 2012 while fighting the White Draw Fire northeast of Edgemont, South Dakota. Their C-130 was serving as an air tanker using a Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) in the cargo hold which enables the aircraft  to drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on a wildfire. There were four fatalities. The two loadmasters operating the MAFFS unit in the rear of the aircraft were seriously injured but survived.

Family and friends of fallen U.S. Air Force Maj, Joseph M. McCormick view building plans and a dedication plaque at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, June 9, 2019 following the Building Dedication Ceremony to honor Maj. McCormick and three other fallen Airmen, Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, Maj. Ryan S. David, and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon. Photo by Staff Sgt. Laura Montgomery
145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard.

The article below about the June 9 building dedication event was written by Staff Sgt. Laura Montgomery, Public Affairs with the North Carolina Air National Guard.


As the rain descends, reverent family and friends of the North Carolina Air National Guard gather in a hangar at the base June 9, 2019 to commemorate the devastating loss of four crew members of the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System seven mission over South Dakota that occurred July 1, 2012. The four fallen members, Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, Maj. Joseph McCormick, Maj. Ryan S. David, and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, have buildings dedicated in their honor, including the new base operations, small air terminal, an aircraft maintenance hangar, and soon-to-be built flight simulator.

building dedication MAFFS 7 Air National Guard
A plaque is displayed dedicating the 145th Maintenance Group hangar to U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) seven crew member, at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, June 9, 2019. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Ballard, 145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard.

“These Airmen selflessly gave their lives executing our C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System mission while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota, “ said Maj. Joel Kingdon, 156th Airlift Squadron, “Today we say thank you to the families for their sacrifice, and we forever memorialize our fallen heroes by dedicating these buildings to serve as a lasting tribute of their service to our country.”

Members of the fallen Airmen took turns speaking about their loved ones and reflecting on joy they brought to their lives and their thankfulness for the men and women of the North Carolina Air National Guard.

“We’re unbelievably grateful for this building, we never really imagined anything like this happening,” stated Alex Cannon, son of the late Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, “We feel only closer with the people here today, we look forward to seeing everyone and we hope to maintain these relationships.”

building dedication MAFFS 7 Air National Guard
Alex Cannon, son of fallen U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon delivers a speech during the building dedication ceremony in honor of his father and three other members of the MAFFS 7 crew, at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, June 9, 2019. Photo by Airman 1st Class Juan Paz
145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard.

As these buildings are erected and modified to suit the new mission of the North Carolina Air National Guard, we reflect on the dedicated service of our fallen Airmen and their willingness to answer a call for something bigger than themselves.

“We take this moment, this chance to memorialize and remember these gentlemen, not because of the fact that they perished on that fateful day but because they actually served faithfully,” said Maj. Gen. Gregory A. Lusk, Adjutant General of the North Carolina National Guard, “The fact that they rose above and answered the call to respond to and secure the blessing of liberty.”

building dedication MAFFS 7 Air National Guard
The family of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal pose next to a commemorative photo created for the 145th Airlift Wing building dedication ceremony at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, June 9, 2019. Photo by Airman 1st Class Juan Paz 145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard.
building dedication MAFFS 7 Air National Guard
A plaque is displayed dedicating the 145th Airlift Wing C-17 operations building to U.S. Air Force Lt Col. Paul Mikeal, a MAFFS 7 crew member, at the North Carolina Air National Guard Base, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, June 9, 2019. Photo by Airman 1st Class Juan Paz, 145th Airlift Wing, Public Affairs North Carolina Air National Guard.

MAFFS 7 crew

Firefighters conducting very large backfiring operation at the Carr Fire

The Carr Fire has burned over 186,000 acres west and northwest of Redding, California

map Carr Fire california
The red line shows the perimeter of the Carr Fire at 10:16 p.m. PDT August 10, 2018. The white line was the perimeter two days before. The beginning of the burnout can be seen at the north end of the fire. Click to enlarge.

Above: Map of the Carr Fire, August 11, 2018.

(Originally published at noon PDT August 11, 2018)

Firefighters have decided to use a bold tactic to stop the northern spread of the Carr Fire in California. Since it started from a burning vehicle near Redding on July 23 it has burned over 186,000 acres in an area about 27 miles long by 19 miles wide.

(To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Carr Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The tactic they selected a couple of days ago was to go approximately five miles north of the fire and backfire, igniting ahead of the main fire hoping that eliminating burnable fuel will stop the main fire when it reaches the backfire. This is taking place along a 12-mile stretch at the northwest part of Shasta Lake near Moist Cove working to the northwest, roughly following Road N7601 and dozer lines they are constructing. Then they make a left turn south for another five miles to tie in with the main fire east of Trinity Lake.

If crews can get the backfire to consume the fuel for at least several hundred yards (more is better) toward the main fire, they will have a pretty good chance of success.

Backing off from the fire, WAY OFF, and removing the fuel by burning it, usually from a ridge, has often worked very well. Sometimes firefighters ignite a backfire from the next ridge ahead of the fire, which may not provide enough time to complete it to the point where it will be effective. The late Rick Gale, who over several decades fought some of the largest wildland fires as a Type 1 Incident Commander and Area Commander, would say, “Don’t choose the NEXT RIDGE, choose the BEST RIDGE”, even if it is miles away.

If the north end does not move any further, the backfire would encompass approximately 40,000 acres, roughly 12 miles by 5 miles in size.

The Carr Fire has been spreading more slowly in recent days. It has been fairly quiet around Redding, but has continued to grow on the northeast and southwest sides.

Resources assigned to the fire include 335 fire engines, 76 hand crews, 12 helicopters, 112 dozers, and 125 water tenders for a total of 4,665 personnel.

According to CAL FIRE, 1,077 residences and 22 commercial structures have been destroyed in the fire. Three people working on the fire have been killed, including two firefighters and one CAL FIRE heavy equipment mechanic.

A Red Flag Warning is in effect Saturday for high temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds.

Below: The California Air National Guard shot this video from the cockpit of one of their Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130’s as it dropped retardant on the Carr Fire in Northern California July 31, 2018.

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.

Rey Fire continues to spread to the east

Above: The Rey Fire. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

(We published an updated article about the Rey Fire August 24, 2016)

(UPDATED at 8:22 a.m. August 22, 2016)

The Rey Fire continued to spread to the east on Sunday, growing by more than 4,000 acres to a total of 23,546. Almost all of the growth was on the east side where it spread for more than 2 miles but it was also active on the northeast perimeter.

3-D Map of the Rey Fire
3-D Map of the Rey Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 10 p.m. PDT Aug 21, 2016. The white line was from about 24 hours before.

The weather conditions at the fire area should be rather mild Monday, for southern California anyway. The temperature will be in the mid-80s under a mostly clear sky and the relative humidity will bottom out in the mid-20s, but the wind could be a concern. It will increase in the afternoon to 10 to 13 mph out of the northwest gusting at 16-20.

The fire is being fought by 1,260 personnel, 28 crews, 48 engines, and 2 helicopters. There are no reports of any structures that burned.

Rey Fire.
Rey Fire. Photo by Jeff Zimmerman.

The time lapse video below of the Rey Fire is mesmerizing. It’s a case study in wildland fire behavior and fire meteorology, featuring wind shear and pyrocumulus clouds. It was shot on August 20 by Jesse Rockwell.

Continue reading “Rey Fire continues to spread to the east”

MAFFS units called up to help fight fires in northwest

Two C-130s carrying Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems, which hold up to 3,000 gallons of retardant each, have been called up to help fight fires in Washington state and Oregon.

Read more about the MAFFS at Fire Aviation.