Heavy aircraft still on standby for Hayden Pass Fire
FREMONT COUNTY -
The BLM is getting as much help as possible for the Hayden Pass Fire. Colorado Springs is home to some of the world's largest firefighting planes, but they have not been called into service yet.
The heavy duty Air Force C130s were crucial to stopping the Waldo Canyon fire, swooping down to spill thousands of gallons of water and fire retardant at a time. "It's low. It's slow. It's in some fairly hazardous environmental conditions with heat," explained a representative with the 302nd Airlift Wing.
So far, though, the Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems, or MAFFS, have yet to mobilize for the Hayden Pass Fire. The 302nd Airlift Wing and the US Forest Service, both part of the National Interagency Fire Center that handles MAFFS, say they have not gotten any requests for service from the BLM.
BLM spokesman Kyle Sullivan says, "Some heavy aircraft has been ordered for the fire. I know multiple aircraft were diverted, so we have put in the request but they just have not shown up. They've been diverted to other fires."
The forest service tells News 5 military planes like C130s, which carry 3,000 gallons of liquid, are only called out when commercial airtankers are unavailable. The forest service has a contract with 20 airtankers nationwide, and generally calls them out first. With the C130s at Peterson AFB, though, they are closer and easily deployable.
"The whole process takes about 3 to 3 1/2 hours and we're ready to go," says an 302nd Airlift Wing representative.
Last August one commercial plane, the new Global Supertanker, came to town. The Boeing 747 was converted to carry 19,600 gallons of water, and is ready to fly, but it is still waiting for certification from the FAA, so it is grounded for now.
The BLM still has not confirmed the specific aircraft they requested. Since those planes were unavailable, they may look to MAFFS for help. The Hayden Pass Fire is burning in rough, mountain terrain and Sullivan says it is too dangerous for the ground crews to dig a fire line, so aircraft assistance is much needed.