Obama: Employ All Resources to Fight Colorado Wildfires
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 30, 2012 As President Barack Obama thanked firefighters and volunteers, and met with impacted families in wildfire-devastated areas in and around Colorado Springs, Colo., yesterday, he also vowed to marshal all federal resources -- including military -- to combat the fires.
President Barack Obama greets firefighters while viewing fire damage in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 29, 2012. During his visit, Obama said he would marshal all federal resources, including those in the military, to combat the fires. Members of the military already have joined with local and regional efforts to contain the flames. White House photo by Pete Souza
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“We're going to continue to make sure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Forest Service, our military and National Guard and all the resources that we have available at the federal level are brought to bear in fighting this fire,” Obama said today in his weekly video address to the nation. He recorded this week’s address during his Colorado visit.
The federal government has marshaled thousands of firefighters, hundreds of fire engines, and more than 100 aircraft, including 19 air tankers, to support firefighting efforts in a number of Western states including Colorado, White House officials noted.
Meanwhile, four Department of Defense C-130 aircraft equipped with U.S. Forest Service Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems and under the command and control of U.S. Northern Command are assisting in the efforts to control fires in the Rocky Mountain region at the request of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, according to a Northcom news release issued today.
Northcom, based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., partners with other agencies to conduct homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests.
Four additional MAFFS-equipped aircraft will be arriving later today to assist with firefighting efforts within the Rocky Mountain region, the Northcom release said.
As of early today, DOD aircraft have flown the following wildfire fighting missions in Colorado:
-- Waldo Canyon Fire, near Colorado Springs, : Fifty air drops, employing approximately 133,500 gallons of flame retardant;
-- Flagstaff Fire, near Boulder, : Five air drops, employing about 13,200 gallons of flame retardant; and
-- Arapahoe National Forest Fire, : Six air drops, employing approximately 13,250 gallons of flame retardant.
Military units that conducted those missions are the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and the Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Airlift Wing based in Cheyenne. Both units are currently flying missions out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
The California Air National Guard’s 146th Airlift Wing, from Channel Islands, and the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing, from Charlotte, will soon join the 153rd and the 302nd, military officials said.
This is the first time since 2008 that all eight military aircraft have been activated at one time, said Air Force Col. Jerry Champlin, 153rd Air Expeditionary Group commander. In that year, the aircraft were stationed at McClellan Airpark in Sacramento, Calif., to fight fires in that state.
Champlin, a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard, has tactical control over the MAFFS aircraft.
Although all eight C-130s will operate from Peterson Air Force Base for now, where they will drop fire retardant depends on the daily situation in the region, officials said. The Forest Service also may choose to base one or more aircraft in other operating areas.