National Guard Responds to Texas Wildfires

ARLINGTON, Va., April 18, 2011 — Nation­al Guard mem­bers from four states today are sup­port­ing civ­il author­i­ties in Texas as they bat­tle more than 30 wild­fires threat­en­ing lives and prop­er­ty.
Drought con­di­tions have caused a report­ed 32 wild­fires in Texas, Nation­al Guard offi­cials report­ed.

Under the direc­tion of the Joint Forces Air Com­po­nent Com­man­der for Air Forces North­ern based at Tyn­dall Air Force Base, Fla., four C‑130 Her­cules air­craft equipped with fire­fight­ing capa­bil­i­ties are respond­ing to the Texas wild­fires.

Texas Nation­al Guard mem­bers are sup­port­ing civil­ian author­i­ties with per­son­nel and four UH-60 Black Hawk heli­copters using buck­ets to drop water in mul­ti­ple coun­ties, offi­cials report­ed.

The C‑130s are bas­ing oper­a­tions at Dyess Air Force Base in Abi­lene, Texas.

Two of the four air­craft are from the Cal­i­for­nia Air Nation­al Guard’s 146th Air­lift Wing, a third is from the Wyoming Nation­al Guard’s 153rd AW and a fourth is from North Carolina’s 145th AW.

Cal­i­for­nia and North Car­oli­na are pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al sup­port air­craft, offi­cials report­ed.

All are expect­ed to arrive today to begin fire­fight­ing oper­a­tions.

The Mod­u­lar Air­borne Fire Fight­ing Sys­tem, or MAFFS, is a self-con­tained, reusable aer­i­al fire­fight­ing sys­tem loaded into the car­go bay of a C‑130 air­craft, which effec­tive­ly turns the air­planes into aer­i­al fire­fight­ing tankers.

Offi­cials said the sys­tem can dis­charge 3,000 gal­lons of water or fire retar­dant in less than five sec­onds, cov­er­ing an area one-quar­ter of a mile long by 60 feet wide. Once the load is dis­charged, it can be refilled in less than 12 min­utes.

Typ­i­cal­ly, the air­craft will spray along the lead­ing edge of a fire in order to check its advance. The fire retar­dant has fer­til­iz­er mixed in to pro­mote re-growth in a burned area. If need­ed, MAFFS air­craft can spray water direct­ly onto a fire.

Four Air Nation­al Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserve units oper­ate MAFFS.

To help pre­vent the spread of fires, two addi­tion­al MAFFS cur­rent­ly fly­ing mis­sions from Laugh­lin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, to Coahuila, Mex­i­co, also are releas­ing fire retar­dant in Texas until the four relief C‑130s arrive.

The MAFFS is owned by the U.S. For­est Ser­vice, one of sev­er­al fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ment agen­cies and orga­ni­za­tions with roles and respon­si­bil­i­ties in fire-sup­pres­sion oper­a­tions that com­prise the Nation­al Inter­a­gency Fire Cen­ter in Boise, Ida­ho.

The Defense Depart­ment is fly­ing at the request of the fire cen­ter, offi­cials said. The cen­ter requests MAFFS assis­tance only after com­mit­ting all oth­er aer­i­al fire­fight­ing resources to a fire emer­gency.

Texas has been under a state emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion since Dec. 21, 2010, because of extreme­ly dry weath­er and wild­fires, offi­cials report­ed. The dec­la­ra­tion makes all state resources avail­able to the Texas Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

The Texas wild­fire sup­port is one of numer­ous cur­rent Nation­al Guard domes­tic and over­seas oper­a­tions, offi­cials report­ed. Cur­rent­ly, Guard mem­bers are pro­vid­ing flood sup­port in Min­neso­ta and North Dako­ta, pro­tect­ing crit­i­cal infra­struc­ture in New York, sup­port­ing the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon oil spill recov­ery in Louisiana and ful­fill­ing oth­er domes­tic mis­sions.

In addi­tion to local respons­es, the Guard is involved in coun­ter­drug oper­a­tions and ongo­ing South­west bor­der oper­a­tions in sup­port of the U.S. Bor­der Patrol.

Mean­while, more than 45,000 Guard mem­bers are cur­rent­ly serv­ing in Afghanistan, the Balka­ns, Guan­tanamo Bay, Iraq, the Sinai Desert and else­where.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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