Video of MAFFS C-130 dropping on Carr Fire

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

If you look closely you’ll see the lead plane produce smoke to mark the beginning of the drop.

Scooping air tankers being used on Holy Fire in SoCal

Above: File photo of Air Tanker 260, a CL-415, scooping water at Castaic Lake December 6, 2017. Photo by Robert Schwemmer.

(Originally published at 6:40 p.m. PDT August 10, 2018)

Two water scooping air tankers are being used on the Holy Fire in the Cleveland National Forest northwest of Lake Elsinore, California. After seeing Cathy Gregg’s tweet about the scoopers we checked Flight Radar 24 and spotted two of the CL-415’s, Tanker 261 (N392AC) and Tanker 260 (N389AC).

At about 6 p.m. local time both aircraft appeared to be headed to San Bernardino Airport. I don’t know which lake they are scooping out of but if it is Lake Elsinore, about a mile from the fire at its closest point, they could have some very short turnaround times dropping up to 1,600 gallons at a time. The Martin Mars, even though it was based at Elsinore, didn’t scoop water there — it got it from another lake in Riverside County; was it Perris or Diamond Valley?

If you want to see more file photos of these two air tankers, we’ve tried to tag them every time they showed up here:  Tanker 260, and Tanker 261.

The exclusive use contracts that the U.S. Forest Service had for four CL-415’s were cancelled for this fiscal year which began in October, 2017. But they remained on Call When Needed Contracts, at a substantially higher daily and hourly rate. It is easy to blame the USFS for this decision since they issue the contracts, but the most likely guilty parties are our Representatives, Senators, and President, who did not supply adequate funding to maintain the same numbers of air tankers (large, very large, and multi-engine scoopers) that we had in FY 2017.

Air tankers protecting Santiago Peak during the Holy Fire

There are millions of dollars worth of electronic equipment on Santiago Peak, which I believe is the highest point in the Santa Ana Mountains in Southern California. The sites serve as transmitters for radio and TV stations, repeaters for emergency management agencies, and private radio systems. On August 8 there was quite an air show working to protect the site as the Holy Fire burned nearby. The live camera operated by HPWREN streamed live on YouTube and I took the opportunity to obtain some screen grabs. The aircraft you will see include an MD-87 and an S2T. Then below there is a shot of the 747 at Santiago Peak taken by Evver G Photography.

The DC-10 made some drops in this area too but while I was watching it was mostly out of the camera frame. One of its passes left retardant on the camera lens.

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

MD-87 air tanker Santiago Peak Holy Fire S2T air tanker Santiago Peak Holy Fire

Continue reading “Air tankers protecting Santiago Peak during the Holy Fire”

Photos from the Holy Fire in Orange County, California

(Above: The Holy Fire as seen from the 747 Supertanker August 6, 2018. Credit: Hiroshi Ando, Drop System Operator, Global SuperTanker)

(This article first appeared on

These photos of the Holy Fire in Orange County, California were taken August 6.

Holy Fire California HC-130H
An HC-130H at the Holy Fire, August 6, 2018. It is either Tanker 116 or 118. ABC7 image.
Holy Fire Orange County California
A lead plane over the Holy Fire as seen from the 747 Supertanker August 6, 2018. Credit: Hiroshi Ando, Drop System Operator, Global SuperTanker.
Holy Fire Orange County California
The Holy Fire as seen from the 747 Supertanker August 6, 2018. Credit: Hiroshi Ando, Drop System Operator, Global SuperTanker.

Continue reading “Photos from the Holy Fire in Orange County, California”

National Guard helicopters assist with firefighting in California

Above: screenshot from the first video below.

California Air National Guard helicopters are assisting with the suppression of wildfires in the state.

The Bambi Bucket shown in this first video holds 2,000 gallons. I’m thinking it is used under a Chinook

In the video below you’ll see a 650-gallon Bambi Bucket, probably used with a Blackhawk.

MAFFS at work

Above: Screenshot from the National Guard video below.

Two Air National Guard C-130’s have been working on wildfires in California for several weeks. They are temporarily outfitted with Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) that can hold up to 3,000 gallons of fire retandant.

I believe this video was shot from MAFFS6 showing Coast Guard/USFS Tanker 118, an HC-130H, dropping on the River Fire east of Ukiah, California.  T-118, which is painted white, is borrowing one of the eight MAFFS systems purchased by the Forest Service that are normally reserved for military planes if they are needed to provide a surge capacity when additional air tankers are needed.

CAL FIRE hopes to get the seven HC-130H’s the Forest Service turned down

Above: Tanker 116, an HC-130H, on final approach at Fresno, July 22, 2017. Photo by L.S. Braun.

(Originally published at 2 p.m. PDT July 267, 2018)

Now that the U.S. Forest Service has decided that they do not want the seven HC-130H aircraft that were in the process of being transferred from the Coast Guard to the Forest Service, the door has opened for Plan B for those aircraft.

This story began in 2013 when Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act directing that the Coast Guard transfer the planes and that the Air Force would arrange to take care the backlog of maintenance and the work needed to turn them into air tankers, appropriating up to $130 million to complete the work. At least two of the planes were close to completion with the exception of installing a retardant delivery system. Tankers 116 and 118 have been seen occasionally working on fires using a borrowed Modular Airborne FireFighting System in lieu of a permanent tank.

CAL FIRE has been considering the long range plans for their fixed wing fleet for a while. The 1,200-gallon S2T’s are not getting any younger and in recent years the agency has been supplementing those 23 air tankers with large and very large air tankers on a call when needed and exclusive use basis. At various times CAL FIRE has used BAe-146’s, DC-10’s, the 747 Supertanker and other tankers, all holding from 3,000 to 19,200 gallons. CAL FIRE was an innovator, being the first to contract for the Very Large DC-10 and 747 air tankers.

CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott announced in an email July 26 that the agency is hoping to obtain the seven HC-130H’s:

…Senator Feinstein and her staff have worked tirelessly to seek amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act that authorize the transfer of the seven C-130H air frames to the State of California. This amended language will be voted on by Congress in the next week.

If approved, there are a number of steps which must take place before California, and ultimately CAL FIRE, can take possession of these aircraft. Additionally, they must be developed into firefighting air tankers, which will require funding through future budget processes. The number of aircraft to be built and the ultimate base locations have yet to be determined, and may take several years to implement. However, the acquisition of these aircraft are an important step forward in bolstering our capacity to address the State’s wildfire risk.

The U.S. House and the Senate are considering different versions of the National Defense Authorization Act referred to by Chief Pimlott. The conference committee charged with modifying and merging the versions agreed to require the Air Force to complete the conversions of the seven aircraft and give them to the state of California.

Here is what they came up with, in Congress-speak:

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 1075) that would amend section 1098 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (Public Law 113-66) to relieve the Air Force from the mandate to modify United States Coast Guard (USCG) HC-130H aircraft with firefighting capabilities for use by the United States Forest Service (USFS). The Senate amendment contained no similar provision. The Senate recedes with an amendment that would maintain the mandate for the Air Force to modify the USCG HC-130H aircraft, but designate the state of California as the ultimate recipient of the aircraft, vice the USFS.

The amended bill still has to be voted on and approved by the Senate and the House and then signed by the President, which could happen as soon as next week.