Military Joins USFS in Wildfire Efforts
Training Sessions Across State This Week
In recent years, fighting wildfires on the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands has become a big part of the summer season often overshadowing recreational use as the warmer weather comes on. Drought conditions, pine beetle kill, and an increase in use have created ripe conditions for wildfire for more than a decade.
And while the Forest Service has been managing wildland fire for more than 100 years, they can’t do it alone. Instead, the agency works closely with other federal, tribal, state, and local partners. And now in the shadow of the Coronavirus with resources stretched thin, that is more important than ever because, over the last few decades, the wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Longer fire seasons; bigger fires and more acres burned on average each year.
In Lake County where the snow has barely receded from most front yards, there is already a Stage Two Fire Ban in place due to limited resources more so than conditions. Shared resources are the key to success when it comes to managing public lands, so it’s nice to report some good news for the woods of the west. Starting this week, the Colorado Air Force Reserve, the Wyoming National Guard and the Forest Service will participate in a series of aerial firefighting training.
“We are eager to join up with our civilian and military partners this week and prepare for another challenging wildfire season,” said Col. James DeVere, 302nd Airlift Wing commander. “Training together is vital. We are able to battle wildfires as one seamless interagency team working with the U.S. Forest Service because of the training we do together.”
Members of the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing and other firefighting agencies today begin a weeklong aerial wildland firefighting training and certification hosted at the Jeffco Airtanker Base.
Training drops with water will be executed in the nearby Arapaho and Roosevelt and Pike-San Isabel National Forests and Bureau of Land Management lands using potable water. Residents in those areas may see low-flying C-130 aircraft and U.S. Forest Service lead planes throughout the week. Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) aircraft will load water from Jeffco and will start and end their days at their home units. However, don’t be surprised to see a few runs up into the high country. While the Leadville Airport runway is still closed locals may see (and hear!) some of the C-130s in the skies.
The aircrafts are equipped with the fire fighting systems, which can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in less than 10 seconds across a quarter-mile line. The system slides into the back of the military aircraft, and retardant is released through a nozzle on the rear left side. MAFFS aircraft can be activated to supplement the USDA Forest Service and the civilian airtanker program to slow or stop the spread of wildland fires across the nation.
The three Air National Guard wings tasked with conducting MAFFS missions include: the 146th Airlift Wing from Channel Islands, Calif., 152nd Airlift Wing from Reno, Nev. and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo. The 302nd Airlift Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is the only Air Force Reserve unit executing the MAFFS mission.
The certification training, sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, includes classroom sessions, flying and ground operations for Air Force aircrews, civilian lead plane pilots and support personnel from the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other state and federal firefighting agencies.
“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 USDA 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 helps ensure our mutual preparedness.”
Having military C-130s that can be converted into airtankers provides a critical “surge” capability that can be used to augment wildfire suppression efforts when the commercial airtankers are fully committed or not readily available. So if you see them overhead – or likely hear them first – give them a friendly salute along with the hope that Lake County doesn’t have to see them again anytime soon. Thanks for keeping Colorado – and the Rocky Mountain West – safe!
Map of Water Drop Sites for Training
Solvista’s Mental Health Minute
These videos have reminders and tips for taking care of your behavioral health. In this week’s video Brandon talks about the challenges of working from home and having your kids doing school from home. These tips will be especially helpful now while we are physically distancing at home, however, these practices are good for your overall health and wellness all the time. Take care!