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Tue, Sep 13, 2005

Air Force Reservists Fight Fires In Idaho

Two specially equipped C-130 Hercules and 29 reservists from Peterson Air Force Base, CO, are helping squelch forest fires in Idaho.

In the first three days since arriving Sept. 4 in Boise, Idaho, the C-130s and Airmen from Air Force Reserve Command flew 14 sorties and dropped 36,500 gallons of fire retardant supporting of the National Interagency Fire Center, also in Boise.

The aircraft, assigned to the 302nd Airlift Wing here, are equipped with modular airborne fire fighting systems that allow aircrews to drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant over an area one-quarter of a mile long and 60 feet wide.

The Airmen use the systems in coordination with ground-based firefighters. Aircrews are dropping their retardant in front of advancing fires, allowing firefighters on the ground to clear a wider area or attack fires from the sides.

"We are on standby to hit a fire when it springs up, so we are fighting smaller fires before they get large," said Maj. Steven Foss, the mission commander. “We are able to respond quickly to protect lives and property."

A mixture of 80- to 85-percent water, 10- to 15-percent ammonium sulfate and red coloring are combined to create the retardant, also called slurry.

The aircraft and reservists replaced Air National Guard Airmen who relocated to support Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

"We were surprised to get the call, but no more surprised than anyone else with what's happened," Major Foss said.

"Morale is high, as always. We like to support the firefighters." [ANN Salutes 2nd Lt. Jody Ritchie, 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs]



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