Air tanker base gets $1 million remodeling

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (AP) - A $1 million remodeling of a tanker
base at Jefferson County Airport includes a new system to fill two
planes with fire retardant at once.
Retardant, often called slurry, is dropped by the planes to help
contain wildfires.
The U.S. Forest Service is paying for the remodeling, which also
includes a new building to house offices, a pilots' room, a
dispatch unit, sleeping quarters for crews, a gym and warehouse
space.
Construction started in November.
The changes are part of a plan put in place in 1998 to update
tanker bases across the country, said Tom Landon, regional aviation
officer for the Forest Service.
The new piping system for retardant should be finished by March
and construction on the new building should be complete by August,
said Mark Michelsen, air tanker base manager at the airport.
The ongoing drought could make this summer's wildfire season
even worse than the last, he said.
The Forest Service has 33 planes available to help with fires
nationwide pending each plane's inspection, Landon said.
Although planes can be brought in to Jefferson County from
across the country when needed, there won't be a heavy air tanker
permanently based there as there was last year.
Some of the large air tankers that flew out of the county
airport - the PB4Y-2s and C-130As used under contract with private
companies - have been permanently grounded because of two fatal
crashes last year.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)