By Jeri Chadwell
RENO–The 152nd Airlift Wing of the Nevada Air National Guard has been helping battle massive fires throughout the Western United States since June 26. In the face of continuing blazes, they’ll now be staying on the task at least through Aug. 26.
Last year, the unit remained activated between July 29 and Oct. 3. This remains its longest firefighting activation in its history.
This year’s activation was extended at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.
The NIFC reports that as of July 20, 83 large fires have burned nearly 1.3 million acres across 13 states—and more than 19,300 wildland firefighters and support personnel are assigned to the incidents.
It was reported yesterday by media outlets across the country that the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon had grown so large it began creating its own weather. By then, the fire had burnt more than 606 square miles—an area about half the size of Rhode Island. Places as far away as New York City were reportedly experiencing smoky haze from the fires in the Western U.S. on Wednesday.
“The request for additional support shows just how challenging this fire season has been and how critical our aircraft, aircrews and maintenance personnel are to supporting NIFC,” said Col. Jeremy Ford, 152nd Airlift Wing commander. “These Airmen are dedicated to fighting these wildfires in order to protect and save life and property of communities from the local area to multiple regional states.”
The 152nd Airlift Wing has, since activating nearly a month ago, undertaken 141 firefighting missions and dropped 388,766 gallons—more than 3.4 million pounds—of retardant on fires throughout the American West.
The California Air National Guard’s planes have flown 64 missions, dispensing 170,322 gallons, adding up to a total of nearly 1.5 million pounds of retardant.
Together, the California and Nevada units have flown and dropped on 11 different fires.
The 152nd Airlift Wing is also known as the “High Rollers.” The team will continue to support firefighting efforts with two C-130H aircraft. There will also be two additional C-130 aircraft and aircrew added to the mission for a total of five military C-130 aircraft activated.
The additional aircraft, one from the Wyoming Air National Guard and the other from the Air Force Reserve in Colorado, arrived at CAL FIRE’S McClellan Air Tanker Reload Base in Sacramento, California, on Tuesday. They will now assist federal and private firefighting assets as needed around the region.
The Air Force C-130 aircraft assigned to units in California, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming can drop fire retardant using the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) equipped aircraft.
The MAFFS program is a joint effort between the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Defense (DOD). The U.S. Forest Service owns the MAFFS equipment and supplies the fire retardant, while the DOD provides the C-130 H and J model aircraft, flight crews and maintenance and support personnel to fly the missions.