SOURCE: Air Force Reserve

February 05, 2007 05:17 ET

Homeland Mission Fights Wildfires

The Air Force Reserve Offers Unique Part-Time Job

LAS VEGAS, NV -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 5, 2007 -- When the alarm goes from warm to wild, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service calls in the Air Force Reserve for assistance in fighting fires. Under a unique arrangement codified by law, the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, through the National Interagency Fire Center, may call on the Department of Defense for support after all civilian resources have been exhausted. Then, the Aerial Firefighters, members of the 731st Airlift Squadron based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, load C-130s specially configured with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS), and start flying.

The Aerial Firefighters are looking for new members for this mission, conducted only in the United States. Recruiters will be available to discuss the qualifications for and duties of Aerial Firefighters at the Front Range Air Show in Denver, CO, on June 22, 23, 24; the Moonlight Fund Air Show in New Braunfels, TX, on October 20; the Ft. Worth Alliance Air Show, Ft. Worth, TX, on October 20 and 21; and the Randolph Air Force Base Air Show, San Antonio, TX, on November 3 and 4.

"Once we start, it's an intense rotation of load up, fly to the fire site, get down to about 150 feet above the flames, dump the water or retardant in about five seconds, and then do it all over again," said Maj. Mark Steward, a C-130 pilot. "We usually fly 14 sorties in a 12-hour shift. Sometimes it takes as many as a hundred sorties to stop a fire." A hundred sorties are roughly equal to 300,000 gallons of liquid dropped on a fire.

The MAFFS were mandated by Congress nearly four decades ago when a massive California fire overwhelmed civilian efforts. Using 3,000 gallon pressurized tanks, the C-130 aircraft crews can drop water or retardant over an area a quarter of a mile long and about 60 feet wide.

"A goal can be to contain a raging wildfire, or it can be an attempt to save one house, and that's important. It may be the last chance the owners have," said Major Steward. The record for wildfires was set in 2006, when more than 9.5 million acres of land in the United States burned.

In addition to continuous training to prepare for fighting wildfires, each year the Aerial Firefighters must be recertified for their jobs.

The Aerial Firefighters form one specialized group in the Air Force Reserve, a team of more than 70,000 men and women, who serve to keep America safe.

Note: This release contains a Public Service Announcement for the Air Force Reserve Aerial Firefighters. Broadcast quality copies of the PSA and B-roll of firefighter training are available upon request. Also, interviews can be arranged with Aerial Firefighters.

Contact Information

  • Contact:
    Marlene DeMarco