Air Force Attacks Texas Wildfires

Texas continues to burn Wednesday, with 18 fires reported in the April 27 National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report. Through Tuesday’s situation report from the State of Texas, 1.9 million acres have been burned and over 900 structures lost. There were 13 new fires reported in Texas yesterday.

The United States Air Force maintains four wings that specialize in flying C-130 aircraft that are able to drop fire retardant. At the request of Texas authorities, four aircraft have been deployed to Dyess Air Force Base outside of Abeline, Texas. These aircraft, with their flight crews and ground support personnel, have been flying drop missions since April 17.

The Air National Guard’s 146th Air Wing, out of Channel Islands, Calif., have provided two aircraft. The 145th Wing from Charlotte, N.C., and the 153rd Wing from Cheyenne, Wyo., have each sent one aircraft. Colonel Jack Pittman is commanding the efforts and he briefed reporters today by phone from Texas.

For the period April 17-April 26, the Air Force has flown 44 sorties and made 47 drops of fire retardant. That amounts to 132,000 gallons. All aircraft are using the newest dispersal systems, the MAFFS 2, which are owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fire Service and designed to be easily loaded and operated from the Air Force planes.

Air Force aircraft recently assisted at the Deaton Cole fire in Val Verde County. It is 10 percent contained and has already burned 7,000 acres. Strong winds on Tuesday allowed the fire to jump containment lines in some areas. This fire grew by 1,500 acres in the last day.

Other Air Force planes have been used on the Fuller Ranch fire in Scurry County. This fire has burned 3,500 acres and is now 70 percent contained. It doubled in size in the last 24 hours.

The most serious of the fires at this time are those making up the PK Complex. Nearly 127,000 acres have burned in the four fires that make up the complex, and it is 90 percent contained. 167 homes and two churches have been lost.

The most acreage lost has been in the Rockhouse fire, burning in Presidio and Jefferson Davis counties. 231,000 acres have burned, along with 23 homes and two commercial structures. This fire grew by 6,000 acres in the last 24 hours. It is 75 percent contained.

The Air Force mission will continue as long as the aircraft are needed by civilian authorities. Many of these same airmen and aircraft were used in the Southern California wildfire outbreak in 2008. In April 2010, all of the personnel involved participated in joint yearly training in South Carolina.