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Military Aircraft Crews Training On South Coast To Help Fight Forest, Brush Fires

A C-130J transport equipped with a modural MAFFS system is being loaded with water for a practice firefighting drop

We’re moving into high brush fire season on the Central and South Coasts. This week, a number of unconventional airborne firefighters, and their ground crews from throughout the country are in Ventura County training to battle major blazes which might erupt.

The C-130 transports have been a staple of the U.S. military around the world for decades, moving everything from troops to supplies to military bases. But, a collection of  the planes from Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve units in four western states are here at Port Hueneme this week for a much different reason.

The 14 giant, jumbo jet sized planes play a key back role in fighting brush, and forest fires, and more than 400 crew members are here for a week long training effort.

The California Air National Guard has eight C-130 transports and 1200 personnel based at its Port Hueneme facility. The planes are ready to go for all kinds of transport missions, from military to humanitarian.

Major Kimberly Holman, with the 146th Airlift Wing, says when big brush fires break out, what are known as Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems, or MAFFS, are quickly installed in the cargo bay of the huge planes.  The military planes provide a key backup for civilian firefighting helicopters and planes, which often can’t meet the demand during peak fire season.

More than 400 personnel from the MAFFS wings will be in Ventura County through Saturday, as the five different airlift teams prepare for high fire season. The planes will fly in and out of Port Hueneme, and conduct practice water drops in Los Angeles, and Kern Counties.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.