For the second year in a row tinder dry conditions have allowed explosive wildfire growth in Colorado and once again the United States military is deploying resources to assist local firefighting efforts.
Among the forces being called into action are massive Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) C-130 Hercules aircraft. The planes and crew from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Person Air Force Base are expected to begin flying missions this afternoon.
The MAFFS aircraft will be able to provide a massive boost to firefighting efforts. The planes can discharge 3,000 gallons of water or retardant in less than five seconds and cover an area 100 feet wide and one quarter of a mile long.
MAFFS aircraft are owned by the Department of Defense while the U.S. Forest Service provides the equipment that is installed in them. DoD personnel fly and maintain the aircraft.
Among assets the U.S. military is deploying to battle wildfires in Colorado are MAFFS C-130s.
The Colorado Army and Air National Guard was quickly deployed as well to assist with nearly 75 personnel so far.
Three UH-60 Black Hawks from the Guard began making water drops on the fires yesterday and one L UH-72 Lakota helicopter is helping to coordinate the firefighting efforts.
The U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade at nearby Fort Carson was lending aerial support as well. Two Army CH-47 Chinooks and two UH-60 Black Hawks were utilizing the Air Force Academy’s airfield between water drops.
Other ground-based resources and personnel from Peterson, the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson were actively fighting the fires.
Drought conditions across much of the Centennial State have left a parched landscape. Two consecutive days of record-setting temperatures only served to worsen conditions and yesterday multiple fires broke out in Colorado.
Among the blazes currently burning is the Black Forest Fire north of Colorado Springs. The fire has charred 8,000 acres and destroyed as many as 100 homes.
The Royal Gorge Fire near the infamous Royal Gorge Bridge has destroyed three buildings. To the north in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Big Meadows Fire was started by lightning on Monday and has scorched 400 acres.
Thousands of residents across the state have been evacuated in a scene sadly familiar to Coloradans. Last year’s fire season was considered one of the worst in state history and this year’s is starting out to look similar.