COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Four military cargo planes are now helping fight wildfires in Colorado.
Two C-130 Hercules planes arrived at Peterson Air Force Base last week from Cheyenne, Wyoming and Reno, Nevada and joined two others already in the state.
The planes are outfitted with Modular Airborne Fire Fighting Systems, MAFFS, and can drop 3,000 gallons of water or fire-retardant in just six seconds.
“It’s pretty intensive, just flying over these fires,” Staff Sgt. Annie Lepillez told FOX31.
She’s a loadmaster, who’s in charge of making sure the MAFFS are working correctly. In a week, she’s made numerous flights over the Spring and Weston Pass fires.
“One of the first days we went down to the Spring Fire we dropped by a house,” Staff Sgt. Lepillez said. “And two days later we flew over the same area and saw that it was saved. We know we’re doing some good to help.”
And helping is the exact reason the staff sergeant joined the Air Force Reserves.
Staff Sgt. Lepillez is from Colorado and remembers seeing the Black Forest Fire burn more than 500 homes in 2013.
“I was sitting up in a parking lot kind of checking out what was happening,” Staff Sgt. Lepillez said. “And I see those two planes fly right over me. And I thought, ‘What is going on?’ And all of a sudden I see all this red stuff coming out of airplane and I’m like, ‘Oh my God…that is so cool.’ And in my head I’m like, ‘That would be the coolest job to have.”
Five years later, the staff sergeant has that job.
She’s not the only one protecting her backyard.
Lt. Col. Robert Pantusa also lives in Colorado. He’s a pilot of one of the fire fighting planes and has been flying them into the thick smoke for about a week now.
“It’s a natural disaster for sure,” he said. “It’s not the most ideal circumstances and of course, we don’t look forward to being needed.”
But when they’re needed, these military members answer the call to fight the fires in Colorado.