August 16, 2017 (by Ann Skarban) - Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard continue supporting wildland fire suppression efforts as the National Preparedness level reaches its highest level.
Smoke and the start of a fire retardant containment line dropped by a MAFFS equipped C-130 Hercules aircraft near California’s South Fork Fire, south of Yosemite National Park are visible from MAFFS 5 on August 14, 2017. Three MAFFS-equipped C-130s and aircrews from the AFRC and ANG are providing support to the U.S. Forest Service fire suppression efforts from Air Tanker Base Fresno, California. [USAF photo by MSgt. Thomas Freeman]
The three federally activated MAFFS equipped-aircraft and crews from the Air Force Reserve Command's 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, the 152nd Airlift Wing, Nevada Air National Guard and 153rd AW, Wyoming Air National Guard are providing support to fire containment efforts from Air Tanker Base in Fresno, California. MAFFS operations began there July 30.
On Aug. 10, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho announced the National Multi-Agency Coordinating group raised the National Fire Preparedness Level to its highest point, PL-5. The PL ranges from one, indicating minimal activity to five, which signals very high activity.
According to a NIFC news advisory announcing the PL increase, "A significant amount of initial and extended attack and large fire activity has occurred over the past several days as a result of lightning storms that have intensified local and geographic response," said Dan Buckley, chair of NMAC.
"Yesterday was a huge day for MAFFS," said Col. James DeVere, commander of the 302nd AW, who is currently serving in the MAFFS Air Expeditionary Group, referring to the MAFFS sorties from Aug. 14.
"This was the busiest day since MAFFS was activated," said DeVere.
On Aug. 14, the three MAFFS-equipped C-130 employment totals included 24 sorties, 24 drops with 68,822 gallons of retardant.
"There is a lot of fire activity just south of Yosemite National Park," said DeVere. "All of our drops [on August 14] were just south of Yosemite on the South Fork fire protecting the park -- supporting an early detection fire. We had a big impact on it yesterday."
As of Aug.14, the federally activated MAFFS cumulative employment totals grew to 110 drops disbursing 279,350 gallons of retardant on more than a dozen fires throughout California.
The last time the National Preparedness Level raised to its maximum was on August 13, 2015. The National Preparedness Level remained at PL-5 for 24 days until it was dropped to 4 on September 6, 2015. This is the fifth time that PL-5 has been reached since 2007.