A recently released video shows what it’s like to fly in the cockpit of one of the California National Guard C-130s currently working to contain the Carr fire, one of the largest wildfires in California’s history.
These C-130s are specially equipped to assist in the firefighting effort, using Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFS) to drop massive amounts of fire retardant from the sky. The fire retardant used is a specially developed chemical spray that can be used to slow or stop the spread of the fire, or even reduce its intensity by reducing how flammable the fuels in the area (such as wood) or temporarily delaying its combustion, hindering the progress of the spreading walls of flame.
The MAFFS system can literally be rolled onto a number of different aircraft, including the legendary C-130 Hercules, allowing for integral air support in the firefighting effort without the need (and expense) of an entire fleet of dedicated firefighting aircraft. Once installed in a C-130 or J-series transport plane, the MAFFS system can disperse some 3,0000 gallons of retardant spray in just five seconds, smothering an area that’s about 100 feet wide and a full quarter mile long. Once depleted, the aircraft can return to base and resupplied with another 3,000-gallon payload and dispatched for another run in just twelve minutes.
The Carr fire was first reported on July 23, when a trailer tire blew on a road near Redding, California. The tire’s rim scraped the asphalt, producing sparks — and that’s all it took to begin the massive blaze that has since engulfed more than a thousand homes. Eight people, including two firefighters, have already been claimed by this fire as it has spread to decimate more than 183,633 acres. Thus far, firefighters believe they have about half of the Carr fire contained, but concerns remain about the remote forest and grasslands the fire is approaching. Because of a long-lasting drought in the region, the territory is ripe for the fire to once again gain the upper hand, and officials warn that there remains a significant threat that the fire could once again begin to grow uncontrollably. Efforts to contain the fire are also hampered by the high levels of humidity and near triple-digit temperatures in the region — increasing the chances of firefighters, adorned in heavy gear, going down as heat casualties within even being near the fire.
If all goes well, firefighters still don’t expect to the have the massive blaze completely contained until sometime in September.
Featured image: C-130 equipped with a MAFFS system sprays retardant over the Black Crater Fire in Oregon. | U.S. Forest Service photo by Thomas Iraci, via Wikimedia Commons