SACRAMENTO, Calif. – At the request of the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection (CAL FIRE), the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing mobilized two C-130J Hercules aircraft this morning to support firefighting efforts at the Rocky Fire in Lake County and other wildfires across Northern California. Each aircraft is equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS), which can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds. The CAL FIRE request came late last evening through the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES).
“The men and women of the 146th Airlift Wing respond eagerly to support CAL FIRE in their battle against the wildfires in our state,” said Col. David Bakos, 146th Airlift Wing Commander. “We bring skilled and highly-trained personnel with the latest in aerial firefighting equipment to the fight, and this year we are once again trained and ready to meet the challenge.”
The state-of the-art C130J aircraft departed at about 10 a.m. from Channel Islands Air National Guard Base and arrived at their staging area in Sacramento around noon. The MAFFS-equipped airtankers can discharge their 3,000 gallons of water or retardant over an area one-quarter of a mile long by 60-feet wide, and can refill in less than 12 minutes.
“Once again, our decades long cooperative relationship is paying dividends by providing these resources during a time when drought conditions and lightning are creating significant challenges for firefighters battling multiple large blazes across Northern California,” said Chief Dave Teter, CAL FIRE’s deputy director for fire protection.
With the addition of the two C130J airtankers, 12 Cal Guard aircraft are now active in supporting CAL FIRE, including four UH-60 Black Hawk, three CH-47 Chinook, two LUH-72 Lakota and one HH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopters. The aircraft provide water bucket, medical evacuation and personnel and equipment transportation capabilities.
Currently, 8,000 firefighters are battling more than 18 large wildfires across the state. California’s dry drought conditions and strong winds have made for erratic fire conditions and rapid rates of spread.
“Specialized aircraft like these provide firefighters another tactical resource to help limit the impacts of aggressive wildfires,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of Cal OES. “Combined with the engines and other resources already positioned by the federal, state and local partners, incident managers have additional flexibility in the approaches they can take to contain and eventually control fires when they occur.”