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Wildfire, fire management and air quality news for western Montana and the Northern Rockies.

Military Airtanker Tasked With Fighting Western Wildfires

A MAFFS-equipped C-130 Hercules from the 302nd Airlift Wing makes a water drop over New Mexico during a training exercise, May 2007.
Technical Sergeant Rick Sforza, United States Air Force (4th Combat Camera Squadron). PD.
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A MAFFS-equipped C-130 Hercules from the 302nd Airlift Wing makes a water drop over New Mexico during a training exercise, May 2007.

The federal government has activated a large military airtanker to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in the West. Ken Palmrose is a public information officer with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

"Right now it’s going to be stationed at Fresno, California and it will probably be working there in California starting tomorrow," says Ken Palmrose, a public information officer with the Fire Center.

The military C-130 aircraft is equipped with a Modular Airborne Firefighting System or MAFFS.

MAFFS are portable fire retardant delivery systems that can be inserted into C-130 aircraft to convert them into large airtankers when needed. Military C-130s equipped with MAFFS can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant on wildfires. They can discharge their entire load in under five seconds or make variable drops.

Although the airtanker will begin its assist  Palmrose said it will be available anywhere it’s needed, including Montana.     

"I think as it develops we’ll just have to take a look and see what our resource needs are and if that’s the case more could be activated."

Over the last 10 years, military C-130s equipped with MAFFS have delivered a total of approximately 7.9 million gallons of fire retardant on wildfires, an average of approximately 790,000 gallons per year.

Beau is a former Morning Edition host and producer and engineer for the MTPR program "Capitol Talk." He worked as a reporter, and hosted Freeforms once a month.
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