Calling In The Crews Of "Last Resort"
Northern Command is
sending all eight of the Defense Department's C-130 aircraft
equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, or MAFFS,
and six CH-53 helicopters with fire suppression buckets to support
the firefighting effort in California.
While homeland defense is the primary mission of the command,
established as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks,
Northern Command also provides "one-stop shopping" for military
assistance to civil authorities in disaster relief operations.
"When called upon, Northern Command's mission is to expeditiously
support (the National Interagency Firefighting Center in Boise,
Idaho) in order to lessen or eliminate the effects of wildland
fires," said Army Col. Jay Marts, Northern Command's deputy chief
of current operations.
MAFFS aircraft from the California Air National Guard's 146th
Airlift Wing, Channel Island Air National Guard Station, entered
the fight Oct. 27. Air Force Reserve C-130s from the 302nd Airlift
Wing, Peterson Air Force Base (CO) flew their first missions Oct.
28. Air National Guard aircraft from the 145th Airlift Wing,
Charlotte (NC) and the 153rd Airlift Wing, Cheyenne (WY), are also
in the air over the fire front.
DoD also has approved a request for six helicopters with fire
suppression buckets. The helicopters will come from 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air
Station Miramar (CA).
C-130s from the 146th have flown 23 missions, dispersing 62,100
gallons of retardant. A 302nd C-130 dropped 2,700 gallons of
retardant in one Oct. 28 mission. The MAFFS is a modular unit
designed to be inserted into a C-130 aircraft. Each MAFFS unit is
capable of carrying about 3,000 gallons of fire retardant. When
discharged from about 200 feet above the treeline, the system is
capable of covering an area about 60 feet wide and a quarter mile
long in about 10 seconds.
The Defense Department is a "last resort," called in only after
all local and state assets have been used, Marts noted.
When NIFC determines military firefighting assistance is needed,
the center sends a request for assistance to the DoD. Once
authorized, the order is sent to Northern Command to execute.