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After Tragic Loss, North Carolina Air Guard Back to Firefighting Mission

C-130 fighting the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado
U.S. Air Force
C-130 fighting the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado

From a 153rd Air Expeditionary Group News Release:

CHEYENNE, Wyo., Aug. 10, 2012 - The North Carolina Air National Guard's 145th Airlift Wing will return to flying Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System missions on Aug. 14, six weeks after four of the unit's airmen were killed in a C-130 aircraft crash during a firefighting mission in South Dakota.

"Charlotte's MAFFS 8 will replace MAFFS 9, from California, for three weeks while the 146th Airlift Wing's C-130 undergoes required maintenance. We're excited to have North Carolina back in the fight and look forward to having them fly with us again," said Air Force Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander.


"Our folks from Charlotte are ready to re-join our MAFFS brothers and sisters in the firefighting going on in the Northwest of our country," said Air Force Col. Roger Williams Jr., 145th Operations Group commander. "We all feel it is extremely important for our people to get back to this critical mission and we will carry the memory of MAFFS 7 in our hearts as the wildland firefighting continues."

On July 1, MAFFS 7, a North Carolina C-130, equipped with a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, crashed near Edgemont, S.D., while supporting the White Draw fire. Four of the aircraft's six crewmembers were killed. It was the first major incident in the 40-year MAFFS mission history. The crash is under investigation.

MAFFS are operated by four military units: The 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard; 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard; 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina Air National Guard; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, U.S. Air Force Reserve Command.

Since being activated June 25, the MAFFS fleet has released more than 1,309,363 gallons of fire retardant during 547 drops on fires in eight states in the Rocky Mountain region.

This year's MAFFS operations are on pace to exceed MAFFS operations in 2008. That year, MAFFS units dropped 1,313,900 gallons of retardant.


MAFFS is a joint Department of Defense and U.S. Forest Service program designed to provide additional aerial firefighting resources when commercial and private airtankers are no longer able to meet the needs of the forest service.

MAFFS is a self-contained aerial firefighting system owned by the Forest Service that can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than 5 seconds, covering an area one-quarter of a mile long by 100 feet wide. Once the load is discharged, it can be refilled in less than 12 minutes.