US sends cargo planes to help Mexico fight wildfires

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Associated Press

Posted on April 16, 2011 at 5:32 PM

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AP) — Two specially equipped U.S. Air Force cargo planes left Colorado on Saturday to help battle wildfires in northern Mexico.

The C-130s were requested by the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department, a U.S. Northern Command spokesman said.

The planes can spray about 3,000 gallons of fire retardant in a matter of seconds from a system of pressurized tanks called Modular Aerial Fire Fighting System or MAFFS.

The MAFFS is designed for the cargo bay of a C-130.

The planes heading to Mexico are based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., and are assigned to the Air Force Reserve's 302nd Airlift Wing.

The fires have burned about 386 square miles in Mexico near the Texas border. Mexico has already deployed 1,000 personnel, nine helicopters and two small planes.

The C-130s will fly firefighting missions from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. A third C-130 went in a support role. About 30 service personnel are also part of the mission.

The planes and crews will stay as long as they're needed, said John Cornelio, a spokesman for Northern Command.

In December, the U.S. sent two of the firefighting C-130s to help battle blazes in Israel.

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