Colorado military reservists prepare for aerial wildfire fighting duty
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Some of Colorado’s military members are taking up arms of a different kind to help firefighters battle what’s been record wildfires the last two years.
The most destructive wildfires in history happened in 2012 with Waldo Canyon and 2013 with Black Forest.
Those two wildfires alone destroyed about 850 homes.
Starting Friday, reservists of the 302nd Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs will recertify themselves in the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System or MAFFS.
The reservists defend our country, our freedoms and also our homes and property.
“It’s a really important mission. We love doing this mission because it’s right here at home,” says Luke Thompson with the 302nd Airlift Wing and MAFFS Program Manager.
Last year, they set aside their military missions to help firefighters battle about 30 fires in six states, including Colorado’s most destructive, Black Forest.
“It’s hard to watch your own town threatened by fire and homes being burned down,” says Thompson.
The Waldo fire affected 80 members of the 302nd Wing—with one member actually losing his home.
These reservists are the last line of protection.
When all fire service equipment is already in use battling fires, they use portable equipment called MAFFS to drop up to 3,000 gallons of water or retardant.
And Wednesday, they’re gearing up for another wildfire season.
They’ll test one of two MAFFS using pressurized water.
And in the coming days, reservists will recertify their MAFFS skills.
When they get the call, members typically have 48 hours to remove a C-130 from its primary mission of airlifting cargo around the world. Except last year, they did it in less than 24 hours.
“Because what happened with Waldo, I think they made a concerted effort to get in faster. It was probably the fastest call out we’ve had in the history of MAFFS,” says Michael Cole, with the 731st Airlift Squadron.
And while experts predict a quieter wildfire season this year, these reservists will be ready if the worst happens.
“We know when they call us, they really need you and we try to be as effective as we can,” says Thompson.