A Vandenberg Hot Shots vehicle backs into the belly of a C-17 Globemaster here from March Air Reserve Base June 27. Eighteen members of the Vandenberg Hot Shot crew, along with two hot shots crew carrier vehicles, one superintendant support vehicle and one all terrain vehicle deployed to Colorado to support the wildland fire fighting efforts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Andrew Satran)
A team of Air Force hot shots, firefighters from Peterson Air Force Base and engineering units from Fort Carson were the latest military resources to join the fight against the Waldo Canyon Fire.
A motorcade of heavy equipment traveled up Interstate 25 to the Air Force Academy Wednesday evening. 121 soldiers from Ft. Carson will operate ten heavy bulldozers, four excavators and two wreckers for maintenance operations on the Academy grounds. Two flatbed trucks, two fuel trucks, 13 support vehicles and one commercial road grader were also sent there.
Peterson AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station are contributing 11 firefighters, three fire trucks and one bulldozer to the Air Force Academy and the Colorado Springs Fire Department.
Personnel out of Peterson also playing a behind the scenes role. The 21st Space Wing out of Peterson is dispensing prescriptions to patients normally assigned to the Air Force Academy's clinic, while up to 32 providers and support staff from the 10th MDG are set to work the medical clinic Friday.
In addition, a wildland team from Vandenberg Air Force Base departed for Colorado Springs Wednesday. The 18-member hot shot crew and their vehicles were flown to Colorado in the belly of a C-17 Globemaster.
The hot shot crew belongs to the Air Space Command.
The new units join other military members from the Air Force, National Guard and Army.
As of early Wednesday morning, four MAFFS C-130s have completed 23 airdrops with approximately 59,900 gallons of retardant.
The 302nd said Tuesday that the Peterson Air Force Base looks like a NASCAR pit, with C-130s rolling in, filling up with retardant and taking off.
"They [MAFFS-equipped C-130s and crews] are cranking as quickly as they can," Maj. Berry, the MAFFS mission commander said.
The 302nd received a request Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the Waldo Canyon fire erupted in the area near the popular trail loop. Those planes have also recently worked to battle fires in Texas and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain region.
“Since they’ve started, we have been monitoring the fires and have had our aircrews, aircraft and the MAFFS systems in a state of readiness anticipating a possible tasking from the U.S. Forest Service,” said Lt. Col. Luke Thompson, 302nd Airlift Wing Chief of Aerial Firefighting.
Edward Goldberg with Performance Products, which has a division of the company providing the retardant, explained to 11 News how the retardant is used.
The active ingredient is ammonium phosphate fertilizer, which is similar to the fertilizer you find at the store to put on your lawn. Farmers use it on their corn crop.
There are also performance additives in the retardant to give it its color so that pilots can see the ground. There is also a thickener in the retardant to give it elasticity, so it hits the ground where the pilot is aiming.
The retardant goes through stringent government testing before it's allowed, so it doesn't hurt people or wildlife.
When the planes are ordered into the air, they’ll take off from Peterson Air Force Base. They can each drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in less than five seconds. That fluid can cover an area one-quarter mile long and 100 feet wide.
Additionally, the 721st Civil Engineer Squadrons fire department from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station is providing six firefighters and one fire truck. They’ll be employed by defending structures.
That unit also sent firefighters to respond to a fire near the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo on Saturday night.
The 21st CES crew provided support to Station 5 in Old Colorado City last night while the station’s crew responded to the forest fire.
“We are honored to help our fellow emergency responders in their brave endeavor to fight the forest fires, and we will continue to support them in any way possible.” said Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander. “Our thoughts are with them and the families affected by the fire.”
Fort Carson said over the weekend that their fire department had sent a brush firefighting truck, four firefighters and an incident command unit to assist.