CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Firefighters in the North Carolina Air National Guard who left on Sunday to help battle Arizona wildfires should be able to come home by this weekend, according to a statement from Lt. Col. Robert Carver, spokesman for Air Expeditionary Group.
The U.S. Forest Service decided Friday to end current military C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System operations. MAFFS units are van-sized tanks that are loaded onto C-130 cargo planes to spread fire retardant from low altitudes.
On June 7, the N.C. Air National Guard’s 145th airlift wing, based in Charlotte, sent more than 30 members to fight wildfires out west in response to a U.S. Forest Service request. They were expected to be deployed at least until the first week of August.
But favorable weather conditions and available fire fighting resources have made it possible to end the MAFFS mission, according to the military statement.
Officials had already reduced the activated MAFFS fleet from four aircraft to two earlier this week. As a result, airmen in the 153rd Airlift Wing were able to return back to their home base in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Charlotte’s airmen are expected to return to Charlotte by the end of the weekend.
MAFFS had operated from the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa since July 3 when the aircraft relocated there from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Since the year's initial activation on June 11, MAFFS crews have flown 134 missions and made 90 drops totaling 245,631 gallons of fire retardant.