PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- The California Air National Guard's 146th Airlift Wing is providing two specialized firefighting C-130J aircraft and crews to assist with wildfires raging across the state. Acting on a request for support from state emergency agencies, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. directed Army Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, California's adjutant general, to provide the support.
Baldwin also authorized air tanker base operations to be staged out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Station here, where the C-130Js are stationed, allowing shorter response times for all civilian and military aircraft working the fires in Ventura County.
The air tankers will land and reload with fire retardant at the Guard station, which is within five miles of the fires. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection members are working with Air National Guard airmen to get the tanker operations up and running.
"Wildfire season is upon us, and our Guardsmen are in the fight," Baldwin said. "When the lives and property of our fellow Californians hang in the balance, our tireless training and coordination with [the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection] pay great dividends." The 146th Airlift Wing has responded to numerous state and federal firefighting missions in the past, but this is the first time the wing's flightline will be used as a tanker base. "California is no stranger to wildfires," said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "Our well-exercised and long-standing relationship with the California National Guard allows for rapid, effective deployment of these additional resources during times of elevated fire activity." The California Air National Guard's C-130J aircraft are equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System II, which is capable of dropping up to 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant. The system slides into the back of an aircraft, and water or retardant is released through a nozzle on the rear left side of the plane. MAFFS equipment and aircraft are activated to supplement U.S. Forest Service and civilian air tankers during periods of high wildfire activity throughout the nation. "The activation of California Air National Guard aircraft equipped with MAFFS strengthens our firefighting arsenal as needed and is a timely addition to current resources considering the extended heat and wind conditions we anticipate through the weekend," said Mark Ghilarducci, secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency, which is responsible for overall coordination of the state's response to major emergencies.