Guard air crews join Northwest wildfire battles

Includes four helicopters based in Madras

MADRAS, Ore. - Aircrews from the Wyoming Air National Guard's 153rd Airlift Wing, who fly C-130 Hercules aircraft equipped with the Modular Airborne Firefighting System, are among the latest National Guard members to join in the response to wildfires in Oregon and Washington state.

The aircrews from the 153rd AW join Guard members from four states in assisting state and local authorities with quelling wildfires raging since lightning strikes ignited the blaze last week. This also marks the first activation of MAFFS aircraft in the 2014 wildfire season.

"We've been activated to ensure the (U.S.) Forest Service has enough aerial assets to fight fires in Oregon, Washington and other regional states," said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Davis, commander of the Wyoming Air Guard's 153rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The crews from the 153rd AW flew to Idaho from their home station in Wyoming to Gowen Field, near Boise, where they will be able to support firefighting efforts in Washington and Oregon.

"They provide a surge capability to civilian air tankers," said Deirdre Forster of the Wyoming National Guard. "They can drop fire retardant or water onto fires and they were relocated to Boise to [decrease] response time."

Members of the Washington National Guard began responding July 16 with UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters, and members of the Oregon National Guard began responding with Black Hawk and Chinook aircraft to wildfires in that state Friday, National Guard Command Center officials said.

The Montana Army National Guard also has sent aircrews and CH-47 helicopters to assist with firefighting efforts in Washington.

"Our neighbors needed help," said Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Crowe, with the Montana National Guard. "Just like Colorado did last year with the floods, and we sent down an engineering unit to help with their natural disaster, we work with Washington as well."

The wildfire response mission remains ongoing, and is projected to last for several weeks.

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