COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Wildfire season is essentially year-round in Colorado, but late spring to early fall marks the season's peak and preparing for it brought Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, to town.
Lamborn toured a new air tanker base being built on the south end of the Colorado Springs Airport. The base will be a more convenient location to support firefighting aircraft from 11 states in the region.
The next nearest air tanker bases are in Arizona and Idaho, highlighting the importance of a base in Colorado Springs.
"They are executing a great plan," Lamborn said of the project. "There's a whole range of assets, and you've got to be able to accommodate them all if you're really going to do a professional job of fighting fires."
The joint airport/U.S. Forest Service project started in March 2020 and should be finished by March 2022, at a cost of nearly $20 million -- some of it financed by federal money acquired by Lamborn.
Last summer, during one of the worst wildfire seasons in Colorado history, the Forest Service used a nearby Army tanker base to refuel firefighting aircraft.
"We were supporting air missions just about every day for three months," said Robby Cline, a fixed wing operations specialist with the U.S. Forest Service. "Having this facility will make a big difference.
Airport Director Greg Phillips said that the new facility will provide other uses, as well.
"We can use it for de-icing aircraft in the winter, and for diversions that happen during the summer season," he said. "When the Denver Airport shuts down for microbursts, fog, or any other reason, Colorado Springs is one of the primary diversion airports. because our weather is better."