The U.S. Forest Service will deploy four airborne firefighting systems on Department of Defense C-130s to Austin, Texas, to support wildland firefighting efforts beginning Sept. 10.

The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) are portable fire retardant delivery systems that convert C-130s into airtankers. Each can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds, over an area one-quarter of a mile long by 60 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, the MAFFS system can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

An additional two MAFFS are staging in Boise, Idaho, to be deployed if necessary. The U.S. Forest Service has a total of eight MAFFS systems ready for operational use, plus one spare.

“We’re going to continue working with our partners to throw every resource we have at the blazes in Texas,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Whether it’s a federal firefighter with a Pulaski or a C-130 pilot dropping retardant, we’re working as a team to help the Texas Forest Service as they continue to face very challenging wildfire conditions.”

There are currently more than 3,800 U.S. Forest Service personnel deployed in the response to the Texas fires. There are 19 U.S. Forest Service-contracted aircraft fighting the fires.

This is the fourth activation of MAFFS in support of wildland firefighting efforts this year. MAFFS activations in 2011 included support to fires in Mexico, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

From 2000 to 2010, military C-130s with MAFFS systems delivered a total of approximately 9.1 million gallons of retardant on wildfires.

Professional Incident Commanders and fire managers decide whether to use air tankers, and where to use them to provide support to firefighters working to suppress wildland fires based on the objectives they have established to manage wildland fires and the strategies they are using to achieve them.

Source: US Forest Service