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Military planes to aid Colorado firefighting efforts

Modified C-13os will deliver big loads of water and retardant where needed

Two MAFFS aircraft will be coming from the 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, WY, and two aircraft will be from the local 302nd Airlift Wing here in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daniel Butterfield)

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —With firefighting resources stretched across the western two-thirds of the country, efforts to suppress major wildfires will get a boost this week from the deployment of four giant Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo planes refitted to drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant during a single run.

The first planes took off on missions Monday, early afternoon.

The planes will fly from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. National fire officials based in Boise assign the planes to various regions based on need, and then they are sent to fly specific wildfire missions. Dispatch centers deploy aircraft to drop retardant based on requests from civilian incident commanders.

The venerable four-engine turbo-prop has been in production since the 1950s, and has long  been used in aerial firefighting efforts. According to the Air Force, the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) have delivered about 7.7 million gallons of retardant on wildfires since 2002.

The missions are operated jointly by the Air Force and the U.S. Forest Service. Heavy aerial tankers have already been instrumental in reducing property damage in some of this year’s destructive wildfires in Colorado, as pinpoint drops have help protect individual homes and given ground-based firefighters more room to maneuver.

Two MAFFS aircraft will be coming from the 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, Wyo., and two aircraft are from the local 302nd Airlift Wing in Colorado Springs.

The planes can cover an area about a quarter mile long by 100-feet wide during their runs and can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.

C-130s are the only military plane to remain in production for 50 years continously. Originally desinged for troop and cargo transport, as well as medical evacuations, the planes have also been used as gunships, for airborne assaults, search and rescue, science missions, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling and maritime patrols.

C-130s are the main tactical airlift tool for military forces worldwide.

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