WASHINGTON — Three military firefighting planes are headed to Arizona on Wednesday to help with the raging wildfire that killed 19 firefighters there on Sunday.
One firefighting-equipped C-130 from the 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado is already on the ground in Mesa, Ariz., and it will be joined by another 302nd aircraft and two from the California Air National Guard, according to Lt. Col. Robert Carver, spokesman for the Air Expedition Group.
The one aircraft dropped fire retardant Monday evening on the Dean Peak fire, east of Kingman, Ariz.
A spokesman for U.S. Northern Command said the request for assistance from the military came Monday night. The AEG intends to have all four aircraft ready to make drops in Arizona by noon Wednesday.
The firefighting aircraft, which are C-130s converted into air tankers, will be based out of the Phoenix-Mesa airport and employed if the U.S. Forest Service, which runs the firefighting effort, decides they are necessary. The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems are part of a partnership between the Forest Service and the Department of Defense.
The aircraft can drop up to 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in five seconds over a mile-long area.
The Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, or MAFFS, activated June 11 to assist in fighting forest fires in Southern Colorado after the U.S. Forest Service sent a request for assistance. Since activating, MAFFS aircraft have made 70 drops on Colorado and Arizona fires using some 190,000 gallons of fire retardant.
The drops help with containment of the fire, while crews on the ground work to put it out. The Yarnell Hills fire northwest of Phoenix has burned more than 8,400 acres so far and is not yet contained.