Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel were activated across the Western United States this week to help fight wildfires raging from Hawaii to Oregon to Alaska.
The Pentagon announced Aug. 10 that around three dozen members of the Hawaii Air National Guard were activated to respond to the wildfires on the island of Maui, which have killed more than 50 people. That’s in addition to around 100 Army National Guard members and multiple helicopters from the Army and Navy.
Also on Aug. 10, Hawaii Air Guardsmen transported vehicles and personnel from the Honolulu Fire Department, along with disaster relief supplies, to Maui on a C-17 Globemaster III.
In Alaska, five firefighters from the Air National Guard’s 176th Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Clear Space Force Station on Aug. 6 with a firetruck to support firefighting efforts in the area. There are several wildfires in the region covering thousands of acres.
And on the West Coast, two C-130s equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) arrived at Klamath Falls Airtanker Base, Ore., this week—one each from the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs, Colo.
MAFFS is a roll-on, roll-off system with a 3,000-gallon tank that can shoot water or fire retardant out the plane’s rear parachute door, emptying the tank in as little as six seconds. C-130s equipped with the system have become a regular fire-fighting fixture in the West in recent years, helping to battle large wildfires in California, Oregon, Colorado, and more.
“The MAFFS aircraft play a pivotal role in combating wildfires, and their swift deployment to affected areas allows us to respond rapidly to emerging fire incidents,” said Col. Barry Deibert, commander of the 153rd Airlift Wing, in a release. “Our primary goal is to enhance aircraft operations, ensuring the protection of lives and property, and providing unwavering support to the multi-agency firefighting response effort.”
The National Interagency Fire Center requests the Air Force’s help with firefighting missions, and the U.S. Forest Service provides the MAFFS system and fire retardant. This marks the first deployment of the C-130-equipped MAFFS this wildfire season—later than previous years.
There are currently four wildfires raging in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, covering hundreds of acres.