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Article examines role of MAFFS, air tankers in fight against today's fires

by Rich Hildebrand |

The 2020 California wildfire season was a record-setting year. Nearly 10,000 fires burned more than 4.2 million acres, more than 4 percent of the state's roughly 100 million acres of land.

The August Complex fire (the first "gigafire") burned more than 1 million acres. Other states such as Colorado also had historic years with more than 625,000 acres burned at a cost in excess of $255 million.

Air attack and the use of tankers have become more important due to the speed of growth and devastation of the current fires.

Richard Hilderbrand (MSO-66) takes a look back at the 70-year history of the use of retardant, development of air tankers and the involvement of the joint U.S. Forest Service/U.S. Air Force modular airborne firefighting system – MAFFS – program in air attack on these massive wildfires.

Hilderbrand has two articles that were posted recently on One is entitled “Firefighting air tankers, the early years” and the second is “MAFFS – A look back.” You can find these articles at the website, although you will have to scroll down for the articles.