Colorado’s newest Grand Airtanker, called Tanker 10, proved its worth within an hour of signing the contract.
At around 1 p.m. on June 24, state officials signed an exclusive use contract with Neptune Aviation for the tanker, a British Aerospace 146-200 aircraft, also known as the BAe-146. Less than 45 minutes later, it was flying over the Muddy Slide Fire and Oil Springs Fire, assisting crews of other planes, as well as firefighters on the ground, said Mike Morgan, director of Colorado’s prevention and control division. fires.
He was one of many officials who spoke at a press conference Thursday at Jeffco Airtanker Base in Broomfield, which Tanker 10 will call home when not in the field.
“It was really a godsend,” he said. “And again, we appreciate the support of the Legislature and the Governor and we have provided these tools to us and our firefighters on the ground who really need these resources to help them. Keep them safe and secure. community safety. ”
This exclusive use agreement means that the tanker will be ready for Colorado’s specific needs throughout 2021. Previously, the state had to compete for resources with 18 other western states facing wildfires, a Morgan said.
“Due to the growing problem of the fires in Colorado and the threats to Colorado and its citizens, we are working very hard to ensure that we have additional assets under our operational control, which is where the contract between the division of Neptune, so that this particular aircraft is being used in Colorado for Colorado needs instead of a national need, ”he said.
He said he believed the tanker could get to any corner of Colorado in under 30 minutes from the tanker’s base.
“When you look at the growth and development of fires, the ability to have that to help your local fire department keep a fire small in 30 to 45 minutes instead of four to six hours, it makes all the difference in the world, ”he said. noted.
The contract for Tanker 10 is the result of Senate Bill 21-049, which also extended state aviation contracts for single-engine tankers and helicopters and provides funds to help provide a early support to fire chiefs and sheriff’s offices when forest fires first break out. The latter should help control fires before they become large.
With the state having no tanker base, Morgan thanked the US Forest Service and Jeffco Airtanker Base for allowing the tanker to stay there.
“Our success in fighting fires really hinges on the partnerships and relationships we have established,” he said.
DFPC has signed a contract for Tanker 10 with Neptune Aviation, a firefighting airline and has been providing large tanker services for more than 27 years in the United States, said Jennifer Draughon, president of Neptune Aviation Services.
“We are really proud of our dedicated employees and the expertise they bring to aerial firefighting. We also recognize… that the key to success in fighting forest fires and protecting communities lies in partnerships, which allow you to have all the practical skills in working together to get the job done, ”he said. she declared.
She added that the company is considering a long-term partnership with the state.
Fire seasons now last 70 to 80 days longer than in the 1970s, Morgan said. The state has worked with its partners to develop new strategies to prepare for longer, more destructive wildfires by shifting resources to models that better address the growing problem, he said. A lot of work, partnerships and conversations are working to make this happen, Morgan said.
This is now reinforced by Senate Bill 49 as well as Senate Bill 21-113, which authorized the DFPC to purchase a Fire Hawk helicopter, which is currently under construction. So far, the lawmaker has given money to the DFPC for a Type 1 helicopter, which is under contract and currently on the drought-ridden West Slope.
The DFPC said Colorado should expect another year of intense wildfires this summer due to ongoing drought conditions that could worsen over the summer.
Over the past year, several wildfires – the Cameron Peak Fire, the East Troublesome Fire, and the Pine Gulch Fire – have become the largest in Colorado history. Over 600,000 acres of forest have burned in the state.
Here are the largest wildfires in the state, listed by area:
1. Cameron Peak Fire (2020): 208,913 acres
2. East Troublesome Fire (2020): 193,812 acres
3. Pine Gulch Fire (2020): 139,007 acres
4. Hayman Fire (2002): 137,760 acres
5. Spring fire (2018): 108,045 acres
6. High Park Fire (2012): 87,284 acres
seven. Missionary Ridge Fire (2002): 72,962 acres
8. 416 Fire (2018): 54,129 acres
9. Bridger Fire (2008): 45,800 acres
ten. Fire of the Last Chance (2012): 45,000 acres
Note: The Rocky Mountain Region Coordination Center has stated that the West Fork Complex Fire, which burned a total of 109,632 acres in 2013, is not on this list because they were three separate fires.