RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Nevada Air National Guard is activating its airlift wing with air tankers more than a month sooner than last fire season to help fight wildland blazes that already have burned more than 780 square miles across 11 western states.

The National Interagency Fire Center requested one C-130 aircraft and aircrew from the 152nd Airlift Wing in Reno, said Col. Jeremy Ford, the wing’s commander.

He said in a statement Thursday the activation highlights the military’s role assisting in firefighting efforts, “especially with that need coming much earlier this year than past years to combat increased fire activity across the American West.”

The specially fitted C-130 cargo compartments can drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in 6 seconds, Ford said.

Last year’s activation out of Reno from July 29 to Oct. 3 was the longest firefighting activation in the unit’s history.

The initial request for the aircraft and crew lasts through July 26. The unit will join the 146th Airlift Wing out of Channel Islands, California, with initial deployment scheduled Saturday to CAL FIRE’s McClellan Air Tanker Reload Base in Sacramento.

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