By Rick Sallinger

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– The military has joined the fight against wildfires burning in Colorado.

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Eight C-130s equipped with thousands of gallons of fire retardant are battling the flames. The planes are called MAFFS for “Modular Airborne Firefighting System.”

(credit: CBS)

In four days, they have made 40 trips into the smoke of the Spring Fire and Weston Pass Fire.
Some 80,000 pounds of retardant have been dropped so far.

(credit: CBS)

On board one of those aircraft is Staff Sgt. Annie Lepillez of Colorado Springs.

(credit: CBS)

“I had seen the fires in 2013 in Black Forest,” she said.

A C-130 drops slurry on the Black Forest Fire on June 13, 2013. (credit: CBS)

The sight of the retardant falling out of the sky onto the fire captivated her.

“I saw them do a drop and I thought, that’s got to be the coolest job.”

Staff Sgt. Annie Lepillez (credit: CBS)

She joined the Air Force Reserve and now is a loadmaster on one of the C-130s. She helps manage the retardant loaded and stored in these tanks. They have been dropping 3,000 gallons at a time.

(credit: CBS)

“The amount is going to be based on the weather the hotter it is we can’t put on as much,” Sgt. Lepillez explained.

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(credit: CBS)

And it has been hot, but with the rain there has been a difference.

(credit: CBS)

Colonel James DeVere, the Air Expeditionary Group Commander told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger they are making headway.

Colonel James DeVere (credit: CBS)

“With the air tankers being able to help contain the fires so the firefighters on the ground could put those fires out.”

(credit: CBS)

They fly 150 feet above the ground at the speed of about 110 mph. Sgt. Lepillez has found her first missions to be a thrill.

(credit: CBS)

“Especially being here in Colorado being able to fight fires here in my home state is extra special.“

This job does not come without danger. Six years ago, four crew members were killed one of the planes crashed while on a firefighting mission in South Dakota. A thunderstorm’s microburst was cited as the probable cause.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfire section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

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CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.