Portable retardant plant for the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire

Above: Equipment to set up a fire retardant plant arrives at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, June 25, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Don Branum.

While I was scrolling around the internet searching for something obscure I ran across these photos taken while the Waldo Canyon Fire was burning on the west side of Colorado Springs, Colorado in June, 2012. It appears that Phos-Chek was setting up a portable, or transportable, fire retardant plant at the Colorado Springs Airport, which is the home of Peterson Air Force base and the 302nd Airlift Wing.

Peterson is one of four military bases that can each supply two C-130’s outfitted with the slip-in Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) that converts the aircraft into a 3,000-gallon air tanker. Two MAFFS-equipped aircraft from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard at Cheyenne joined the fight along with the Colorado aircraft.

C-130 MAFFS Colorado Springs Waldo Canyon fire
C-130’s being loaded with MAFFS units and configured to help firefighters on the ground suppress the Waldo Canyon Fire which can be seen in the distance, June 24, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Ann Skarban.

On June 25, 2012 the C-130s began flying air tanker missions out of Peterson Air Force Base and the permanent air tanker base at Pueblo Memorial Airport 50 miles to the south.

On June 23, 2012 the Waldo Canyon Fire started in the Pike National Forest southwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado. On June 26 it spread into the Mountain Shadows area of the city. Before the fire was out, it had killed two people and burned 18,000 acres and 347 homes. Reports later revealed a very timid, anemic, and confused initial attack on the fire and serious mismanagement issues during the first two to three days.

Two years later the Black Forest Fire on the other side of Colorado Springs killed two people and burned 489 houses and 14,280 acres, resulting in $420 million in insured losses.

Articles on Wildfire Today tagged Waldo Canyon Fire.

Interview with a Crew Chief on a C-130 MAFFS air tanker

On April 21, 2017 we interviewed Zach Havel an engine mechanic and former Crew Chief on C-130 Modular Airborne FireFighting System aircraft. The MAFFS converts the aircraft into a 3,000-gallon air tanker. We talked with him at Boise during the annual MAFFS training and recertification.

C-130 MAFFS air tanker Loadmaster Interview

Sgt. Poulsen, a MAFFS Loadmaster, was interviewed April 21 in Boise during training and recertification for MAFFS personnel.

An interview with Sgt. Phil Poulsen of the California Air National Guard about installing and operating the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) in a military C-130, turning it into an air tanker for fighting wildfires.

Video interview with the Colonel in charge of MAFFS annual training

Colonel Bryan Allen was interviewed during the annual training and recertification for the Modular Airborne FireFighting System crews at Boise, Idaho on April 21, 2017. The MAFFS converts a military C-130 into an air tanker for battling wildfires.

Col. Allen discussed:

  • How playing the recording of the C-130J audible cockpit warning “LANDING GEAR, LANDING GEAR, LANDING GEAR” over the public address system at Lockheed, helped to develop a software modification that enabled the pilots to turn off that voice while they were on final approach to drop retardant on a wildfire.
  • The number of sorties and description of the training the MAFFS personnel received during the annual session.
  • How the crash of MAFFS 7 in 2012 affected the training.
  • The origin of the MAFFS equipment.

Tanker 116 in Boise

We shot this photo of U.S. Forest Service air tanker 116, an HC-130H, in Boise on April 20. It was there to deliver the MAFFS unit it has been using so that the Reno National Guard folks can train with it and the other one normally assigned to Reno. After the training the unit will be retrieved by T-116 and hauled back to McClellan in California where that tanker is based.

Two C-130’s and their crews from each of four military bases — Channel Islands, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Reno — are going through their annual training and recertification in Boise this week.

Time-lapse, refilling MAFFS air tanker

We shot this time-lapse video today at Boise during the annual Modular Airborne FireFighting System training. It shows C-130 aircraft cycling in and out of a reloading pit. During the process it was filled with about 3,000 gallons of water and possibly compressed air from an air compressor on the ground — or the crew could have used the air compressors on-board the aircraft. When the reloading hose for water is dragged out to the aircraft, a compressed air line is zip-tied to it.

Gallery of photos from MAFFS training at Boise, April, 2017

Here is a gallery of photos from the Modular Airborne FireFighting System annual training and recertification at Boise in April, 2017. We will add more photos as the training continues. It was last updated on April 20, 2017.

If there is a caption, it will be at the upper-left.

MAFFS training has started in Boise

Above: MAFFS parked on the ramp at Boise, April 20, 2017, for their annual training.

This is the second year in a row that all four military bases that operate C-130 aircraft with Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) have assembled in one place to conduct their annual training and certification. Today, Thursday, was all indoor ground school, held in the theater at the Idaho National Guard facility at Gowen Field in Boise.

On Friday their plans are to fly the aircraft and make water drops in the Boise National Forest.

MAFFS training Boise 2017
MAFFS training at Boise, April 20, 2017.

Each of the four bases sent two MAFFS-equipped C-130’s plus at least one additional C-130 with support equipment. The MAFFS bases are at Reno, Colorado Springs, Cheyenne, and Channel Islands (in southern California). Reno, last year and this year, has had just one MAFFS unit available, since the U.S. Forest Service HC-130H has been using one of the eight that are available, but this week Reno will be training with two. The USFS HC-130H is parked across the runway from the National Guard side of the airport at the National Interagency Fire Center. We’ll check, but it may have hauled the MAFFS up to Boise so that Reno could use it.

We will have much more about the MAFFS training later this week, with more photos and hopefully, interviews.