National aerial wildland fire training in Southern California

April 22, 2024

Aerial wildland fire training scheduled for this week in Southern California

This week, the USDA Forest Service along with the Bureau of Land Management and other federal wildland fire agencies are set to conduct annual training for the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) at the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, California, from April 23-27.

The session will involve personnel from the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, and the host unit, the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing.

The training will utilize four military C-130 Hercules aircraft and several lead planes.

The exercise will encompass classroom sessions, flying and ground operations designed to recertify Air Force aircrews, civilian lead plane pilots, and support personnel from various federal and state agencies.

This is the first of two such training sessions planned this spring for the MAFFS program.

Cooperation between military and fire agencies emphasizes safety and effectiveness

“The MAFFS program is a tremendous example of how the USDA Forest Service and other wildland fire agencies work cooperatively with the military,” said Kim Christensen, Deputy Assistant Director for Operations for the Forest Service.

“We conduct an annual training and certification exercise to ensure that MAFFS can be integrated into fire suppression operations in a safe, effective, and seamless manner.

“It will help ensure our mutual preparedness for the 2024 Fire Year.”

Colonel DeAnna Franks, 302nd Operations Group CC and 2024 Air Expeditionary Group Commander for MAFFS, also highlighted the commitment of the personnel involved: “It is a privilege for our Reserve and Guard airmen to serve in the MAFFS program and be able to support our nation’s need in a critical time when fire could be threatening homes, communities, and our national forest area.

“Our airmen who fly, maintain and support our aircraft are dedicated fully to the MAFFS special mission.

“Their foundational combat C-130 mission-trained skills are directly applied and suited for the MAFFS skillset when called to action.”

Technical capabilities and public interaction

The eight C-130 Hercules aircraft involved in the program are equipped with the Forest Service’s MAFFS, capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than 10 seconds over a quarter-mile line.

The system, which is installed in the rear of the aircraft, provides a critical “surge” capability to slow or stop the spread of wildland fires, especially when commercial airtankers are fully committed or unavailable.

As part of the training, practice water drops will be conducted over some remote areas of the Angeles National Forest.

These operations may be visible to residents and visitors in the area, as low-flying C-130 aircraft and smaller lead planes perform maneuvers throughout the week.

FSJA Comment

By aligning military precision with firefighting tactics, the MAFFS training ensures that both military and civilian firefighting teams are prepared to deploy on short notice, providing a robust response to wildfires across the country.

The integration of such resources underlines the commitment to protecting both natural and residential areas from the devastating effects of wildfires.

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