Two C-130 MAFFS air tankers and the 747 activated for Southern California wildfires

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

(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 can be difficult 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. However on Tuesday, S-2’s, MD-87’s, a BAe-146, and scoopers were used on one or more of the fires.

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.

four CL-415 cody wy
File photo of four CL-415 water-scooping air tankers at Cody, Wyoming during the week of August 1, 2016. Photo by Becky Lester Hawkins.

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.

747 Supertanker
747 Supertanker at McClellan Air Field March 22, 2016.

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.

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