PORT HUENEME, Calif. (5/7/13) – California National Guard assets that had been fighting raging wildfires in Ventura County have been deactivated, officials said early Tuesday.
At the height of the operation, 26 Guard members on state active duty status supported the fire suppression efforts.
According to The Los Angeles Times, the fire at its peak threatened about 4,000 homes. Six firefighters and a civilian were slight injured, the Times said, and 15 houses were damaged.
The Guard became involved when Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. directed the adjutant general of the California National Guard, Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, to provide two specialized firefighting C-130J aircraft and crews from the California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing to assist.
Baldwin also authorized air tanker base operations to be staged out of Channel Islands Air National Guard Station (CIANGS) in Port Hueneme where the C-130Js are stationed, allowing shorter response times for all civilian and military aircraft working the fires in Ventura County.
“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 CAL FIRE pay great dividends.”
The 146th Airlift Wing has rapidly responded to numerous state and federal firefighting missions in the past, but this is the first time that the 146th Airlift Wing’s flightline will be used as a tanker base.
“California is no stranger to wildfires,” said Chief Ken Pimlott, director of CAL FIRE. “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 (MAFFS), 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 located 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. “Combined with the engines and other resources already positioned by Cal EMA, CAL FIRE and other state and local partners, incident managers will have additional flexibility to contain and control wildfires.”