Texas A&M Forest Service Activates Airtanker Base to Help Combat Wildfires

August 21, 2019

In response to rising wildfire activity across the state, the Texas A&M Forest Service is opening the Austin Airtanker Base at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Significant fire activity has increased recently, particularly in northwest Texas, Central Texas and the Cross Timbers region where hot and dry conditions persist and fuel loading is high. Critical fuel dryness is expanding across South Texas, the Hill Country and Rolling Plains as rainfall deficits continue to build across large portions of the state.

During periods of high fire activity, aviation resources are used to support suppression efforts on the ground, aiding in the protection of structures and other valuable resources.

The forest service already has used helicopters and single engine air tankers to help fight wildfires in the state this year. Opening the airtanker base will allow for faster response times and greater cost efficiency when responding to wildfires across the state, the forest service said.

“The airtanker’s speed is greater than that of a helicopter or single engine air tanker. These aircraft will be able to get anywhere in Texas in under one hour,” George Martin, Air Operations branch director said in a media release. “An airtanker can drop a line of retardant in front of a subdivision of homes, slowing the spread of the fire and allowing ground units time to respond.”

The base is equipped to handle all aircraft in the national airtanker fleet, including those aircraft used to drop fire retardant during wildfires. The base will be manned by trained and qualified Texas A&M Forest Service, USDA Forest Service and Austin Fire Department firefighting personnel.

Texas A&M Forest Service does not own any aviation resources but instead uses federal aviation contracts through the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management for all firefighting aircraft.

Source: Texas A&M Forest Service

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