Above: File photo of two MAFFS aircraft at Cheyenne, Wyoming April 30, 2014 for annual training and recertification.
The Multi-Agency Coordinating Group at the National Interagency Fire Center has activated a third Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) C-130 airtanker. The aircraft will come from the Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Airlift Wing in Reno, Nevada.
On July 10 the governor of California activated the two Air National Guard MAFFS aircraft based at Channel Islands in southern California, so this will bring the total number immediately available for firefighting to three.
There are still four others that could be activated — two each at Cheyenne and Colorado Springs.
The Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that convert a military aircraft into an air tanker can be installed in a C-130 in a matter of hours. The units hold up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant that is forced out of the tanks by compressed air.
Below is a time-lapse video of a MAFFS refilling during training at Boise April 21, 2017.
(If the video does not work, you can see it on YouTube.)
The concept behind the MAFFS is to have surge capacity. The units can be activated when ongoing wildfires reduce the ability of the 20 large air tankers on federal exclusive use contracts to respond to new initial attack and extended attack fires, as well as campaign fires.
Governors in the four states have the authority to activate their one or two MAFFS as needed. The National Interagency Fire Center can also call them up.