These in-cockpit videos by the Modular Airborne FireFighting System aircraft are great. If you look VERY closely you will see two puffs of smoke from the lead plane, marking the beginning and end of the drop.
Above: The Liberty Fire east of Murrieta, California, December 7, 2017. Screengrab from the KTLA video.
(Originally published at 7 p.m. PST December 7, 2017)
KTLA shot some excellent stabilized video from a helicopter Thursday of the Liberty Fire that has burned about 300 acres northeast of Murrieta, California. This is a new fire that erupted this afternoon 17 miles north of another new fire, the Lilac Fire south of Temecula which was 3,000 acres at 7 p.m. PST.
The video, which is almost 2 hours long, has at least 8 shots of air tankers dropping. We skimmed through it quickly and noted where the drops occur, probably missing a few.
(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.
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.
On June 30 there was a variety of C-130 air tankers working out of Medford, Oregon, and Tim Crippin was able to capture them on celluloid an SD card. It kind of boggles the mind to see three C-130 air tankers at the same air tanker base, all operated by completely different organizations.
There was one privately owned tanker, Coulson’s T-132, and two government-owned. T-116 will eventually, one of these days, way down the road, perhaps, be officially transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service. And MAFFS 5 is from the Colorado Springs Air Force Reserve base.
Two other MAFFS C-130’s are also activated — one each from Air National Guard units at Cheyenne and Reno.
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.
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.
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.
Above: MAFFS 6 being prepared for activation in California. In the foreground is an air compressor used to fill the compressed air tanks on MAFFS aircraft. Photo credit: 146 Airlift Wing.
(Originally published at 7:29 p.m. MDT July 10, 2017)
California has activated two National Guard C-130 aircraft to assist with combating wildfires in the state. 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. The two C-130’s are with the 146 Airlift Wing at Channel Islands in Southern California.
The MAFFS program consists of eight units located at four military bases in the western United States — Channel Islands, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Reno. Each base has two of systems except for the new kid on the block, Reno — one of their two MAFFS is being used by a C-130 that is in the process of being transferred from the Coast Guard to the U.S. Forest Service.
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.
Governors in the four states have the authority to activate their one or two National Guard MAFFS as needed. The National Interagency Fire Center can also activate them.
In the video below MAFFS 6 is being tested after it was installed in the C-130 at Channel Islands. Normally they drop fire retardant, rather than water.
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.
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.