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Forest Service Tanker Base upgrades cut refueling time for planes

Posted at 10:55 PM, Jul 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-09 17:09:44-04

HELENA – The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Aviation Center has received significant upgrades to their Tanker Base.

Over the past six months, the tanker base has received wider plumbing, two 25,000 tanks of liquid concentrate, and one 25,000 gallon off-load tank.

The new pumps are capable of putting out more than 450 gallons a minute.

Forest Aviation Officer Jay Lindgren said it will greatly aid in getting planes – particularly the “Very Large Airtankers” (VLATs) – loaded and back in the air to fight wildfires.

“In 2017 when we were loading the very large air tankers, the DC-10s, we had approximately 50 minutes time frame of loading both fuel and retardant. This will up it to about 20 to 25 minutes and we can load two at a time,” explained Lindgren.

Lindgren said initial attack is a huge part of effectively battling a wildfire, such as the response to the 2017 Holmes Gulch fire.

“We had the fire right by Helena and it was a matter of minutes for us to get retardant on and helicopters scene,” said Lindgren. “Getting those up there to fight the fire was very important.”

In 2017, the Tanker Base went through more than 1.2 million gallons of fire retardant.

Lindgren added the new upgrades make the base capable of loading a 747 Supertanker should the situation arise.

Story by John Riley, MTN News