Military air tankers, choppers, ground crews fight Colorado wildfires

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Military air tankers, helicopters and ground crews are pitching in to help battle the Black Forest Fire in El Paso County.

Two C-130 transport planes outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems (MAFFs) dropped retardant on the fire on Wednesday afternoon. The C-130s are from the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base.

AIRTRAKCER7 was overhead as they dumped their payloads of red fire retardant Wednesday afternoon.

"We hope this fast, coordinated response from local and federal authorities will help get the Black Forest Fire put out as quickly as possible and save lives and property," said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs. Lamborn and his staff worked with the National Interagency Fire Center based in Idaho to secure the agreement for the C-130s to fight the Black Forest Fire.

7NEWS photojournalist James Dougherty took several photos of Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Carson's 4th Combat Aviation Brigade making water drops on the wildfire Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Air Force Space Command is deploying ground firefighting crews, fire engines and water trucks from Buckley and Peterson Air Force bases and from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station.

Colorado Army National Guard personnel are flying three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters hauling 500-gallon buckets to dump water on the fire. So far, they've dropped about 30,000 gallons of water. The guard also has a LUH-72 Lakota helicopter coordinating the aerial attack on the fire.

"It’s always painful to see neighbors in harm’s way,” said Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the Colorado Guard's Adjutant General. "That’s why domestic operations is one of the most rewarding missions we have in the National Guard. I have every confidence in the Colorado National Guard Citizen-Soldiers we have supporting civil authorities. Not only are most combat veterans, but they are wildfire veterans from the tragic fires of last summer."

Thirteen members of the guard's 1157th Firefighting Company are using fire trucks and water tenders on the fire. In addition, 40 personnel from Colorado’s National Guard Reaction Force are staffing security checkpoints in the Black Forest area.