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Portable base at Colorado Springs Airport supporting air tankers working wildfires in state

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Springs is a distance from several major wildfires currently burning in Colorado, but the city's airport is playing a key role in the effort to extinguish those fires.

A portable air tanker base at the airport supports aerial wildfire responses within a 600-mile radius. The base allows very large air tankers (VLATs) to reload with retardant that is used to slow the spread of a wildfire and support ground crews.

Staring Wednesday, the base was supporting two DC-10 VLATs, from Arizona and Idaho, to help fight the Grizzly Creek Fire near Glenwood Springs. Each air tanker can carry 9,400 gallons of retardant and take about an hour to depart, release its load and return for reloading and refueling at the base.

By Friday evening however, only one air tanker was using the base -- to fight the Williams Fork Fire in Grand County. That tanker had flown three missions to the area.

"The fire is in the Arapaho National Forest," a U. S. Forest Service spokesman said. "It's estimated at 250 acres and is moving northwest, and it's in a remote area that experienced intensive beetle kill of trees."

More air tankers could be using the base as wildfires in Colorado grow.

The base's resources also are available to respond to wildfires elsewhere in Colorado, as well as in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

The Forest Service is cooperating with the city and the airport to build a $17 million permanent base, also at the airport, that will have six reloading pits for a variety of air tankers and a separate pit specifically for VLATs.

The permanent base is scheduled to open next year. It, along with the current portable operation, are designed to support air tankers of all sizes and capabilities contracted with the Forest Service.

The Forest Service chose the Colorado Springs Airport location for its ability to provide enough ramp space for increased productivity and quicker response times.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.



  1. Before anyone says it. We do NOT want the global super money pit to work this fire.

    That plane is a joke and stupid expensive to rent. Leave it in California. Last published costs were we can afford to have the DC-10 do 8-10 drops for the same price of getting the global super flop in the air and going towards a single drop.

    1. Recent calculations done in February 2020 by Fire Aviation on behalf of the Forest Service disagree with you. The cost per gallon for retardant delivered to a fire by the air tankers is about $4.50 for the DC-10s, and about $3.00 for the 747. The approximate costs for other aircraft types are $7.00 for the MD-87; $8.50 for the BAe-146, C-130, and 737; and $10.00 for the RJ85. So it shows that the larger the tanker, the more economical the drops.

  2. Man i was wondering what that jet was doing….this last week been flying over head of us circling the airport….though the poor plane was lost 😉 lol

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