U.S. Air Force reservists prepare for MAFFS wildfire training

 MAFFS releasing water for training, April 18, 2017.
MAFFS releasing water for training, April 18, 2017. (KKTV)
Published: Apr. 18, 2017 at 5:31 PM MDT
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Crews are working hard to make sure they're ready to fight wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service and Peterson Air Force Base are getting ready for nearly one week of training with the C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, also known as MAFFS.

The Air Force reservists with the 302nd Airlift Wing will take part in the training. On Tuesday, the final preparations were made before they're expected to leave Wednesday for a five-day training in Boise, Idaho at Gowen Field through the National Guard.

The purpose of the training is to be prepared for when MAFFS are called upon when further support is needed to fight fires, after all other non-military air tankers are used.

"The first day we will spend all day doing academics," said aircraft commander and MAFFS co-pilot, Lt. Col. Jeff Phillips. "They'll remind us of the safety features, the different procedures for dropping on the fires ... They review all the systems to get us refreshed on what all we are doing, what we are dropping, and then the next four to five days -- depending on the weather and the needs -- we will be actually doing water drops near simulated fires."

On Tuesday, the final test was done. A MAFFS plane shot out 3,000 gallons of water in about five seconds during the test. In an actual fire, the MAFFS would drop retardant ahead of the flames to slow the fire down and help ground crews work.

"It slows the spread and it allows time for our men and women on the ground to see if we engage the fire," said U.S. Forest Service press officer Lawrence Lujan.

Even with the mild winter in southern Colorado, the U.S. Forest Service says they are not expecting higher fire danger than normal. Still though, there are plenty of fires expected

"Right now, we are experiencing average conditions, but again, during average condition there is still fire, small and large wildfires," Lujan said. "In the 4,500 fires that we experience [on average], 39 of those are typically larger than 100 acres."

For average conditions in Colorado, those 4,500 fires consume up to 100,000 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service says while they prepare to fight fires, homeowners should be doing their own preparations in case a fire breaks out nearby. That includes mitigation efforts and having an evacuation plan ready.

"It's great, very rewarding experience. It's a challenging mission, we fly very slow, low, heavy," said Phillips. "It's a challenging mission that keeps us on our toes all the time."