PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The MAFFS aren't to the rescue at the big High Park Fire in Fort Collins. I wondered why this high flying air tanker group, Modular Airborne Fire Fighting, which is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, isn't being mobilized.
I called the U.S. Forest Service to get clarification about why these big planes aren't being used. I've learned the short answer is that the military air tankers haven't been requested by the incident commander on the ground at the massive blaze near Fort Collins. The incident commander is the person running the show at the High Park fire.
Jennifer Jones is with the U.S. Forest Service. She tells me, "the MAFFS haven't been mobilized so far in 2012 because our commercial tankers have been available"
Commercial tankers have contracts with the feds to put out the fires. They're first on the list to use during a blaze as opposed to going with the military, first.
Jones told me, "We greatly appreciate the support and have a tremendous partnership with the military for 40 years. Rest assured, we'll call them when we need them."
Jones also tells me, air tankers are not the end all be all to stop forest fires. The tankers drop retardant to reduce the intensity and the rate of spread of blazes. Crews on the ground can then get in and build fire lines as part of the strategy to get the fires out.