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C-130 units called to Arizona after death of firefighters

Deployment comes as officials remember firefighting C-130 crew killed one year ago

Jul. 13, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Two of the 146th Airlift Wing's C130-Js equipped with a Modular Airborne Firefighting System assisted with firefighting efforts in Arizona.
Two of the 146th Airlift Wing's C130-Js equipped with a Modular Airborne Firefighting System assisted with firefighting efforts in Arizona. (Mike Freer via Air Force)
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The busy summer for firefighting C-130s has continued, with two specially equipped C-130 units continuing to fight fires in Arizona after taking over for two other units that had been in the fight since early June.

Two C-130s from the 153rd Airlift Wing of the Wyoming Air National Guard and two from the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard on July 7 took over for the Reserve 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. The units were called to assist in fighting a fire near Kingman, Ariz. The planes were sent to Phoenix on July 2, after fighting fires in Colorado.

“The weather and progress on the ground have helped us in the Four Corners region,” said Col. Charles D. Davis III, the commander of the Air Expeditionary Group (Provisional)-Wildland Fire Fighting, in a release. “By [July 3], we plan to have relocated all four airplanes and their crews to Arizona. The relocation of the MAFFS resources does not mean MAFFS aircraft will be unavailable should they be needed in the region again if the USFS determines that is necessary.”

The fire that the C-130s were called to fight burned about 100 miles away from a massive fire near Yarnell, Ariz., that had killed 19 “hot shot” firefighters from Prescott.

The Modular Airborne Firefighting System-equipped planes can drop about 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant at a time. The system can cover an area a quarter of a mile wide by 100 feet wide, according to the Air Force.

The MAFFS planes had originally been activated June 11, and they dropped a total of 90,564 gallons of water and fire retardant during 31 trips over the West Fork Complex Fire that burned near Colorado Springs in late June.

The planes are typically activated after a request from the U.S. Forest Service after all privately owned tankers that are contracted by the service are in use.

The 302nd and 146th are standing by to help in Arizona if needed, according to the Air Force.

The deployment of the two wings to Arizona came about one year after the crash of a MAFFS C-130 assigned to the 145th Airlift Wing in South Dakota.

The crash killed four airmen: Lt. Col. Paul Mikeal, Senior Master Sgt. Robert Cannon, Maj. Joseph McCormick and Maj. Ryan David. Two other crew members survived the crash.

To honor their memory, on July 1, South Dakota officials dedicated an interpretive site on a ridgetop northeast of Edgemont. Another memorial was held at the 145th Airlift Wing’s home base in Charlotte.

“We are dedicating this site so people will remember them forever,” South Dakota Lt. Gov. Matt Michels said during the ceremony. “It is impossible for any words to pass my lips that can express our incredible gratitude for the sacrifices that these men have made ... but they will always be remembered by this memorial.”

Maj. Gen. Gregory Lusk, North Carolina National Guard adjutant general, said the men who died would say they were simply answering a call to duty.

“None of them took off that day to become heroes,” he said. “They were simply doing the job they all loved to do.”

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