Colorado Springs, CO - The City of Colorado Springs and the USDA Forest Service hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony today to commemorate completion of the new Colorado Springs Airtanker Base. The facility is located at the Colorado Springs Airport and includes a modern operations building, storage facility, retardant mixing plant, and multi-use ramp. It will accommodate airtankers of various sizes and have the capacity to deliver up to 85,600 gallons of retardant per hour within a 300-mile radius. The base is operational and has supported recent fire suppression efforts.
The Colorado Springs location was specifically chosen for its sufficient ramp space, which will accommodate increased productivity and faster response times. During high fire activity, the ramp will be used as a retardant reload base for heavy airtankers. In the winter months, the Colorado Springs Airport will use the ramp as a de-icing pad for commercial aircraft.
Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera, City of Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, Congressman Doug Lamborn, Director of Aviation at the Colorado Springs Airport Greg Phillips, and Deputy Regional Forester Jacque Buchanan were present to acknowledge the many partners who collaborated on every aspect of the project, from planning to completion of the facility. They also highlighted some of the base’s advanced capabilities and toured the site.
“I’ve spent my entire life in Colorado and over the years I’ve seen some devastating fires, but the changes we’re seeing now feel different. They’re not anomalies, they’re becoming our new reality, which is why the Polis-Primavera administration is working to give Colorado more firefighting tools. These give Colorado the opportunity to extend the contract for the Large Air Tanker during the height of fire season, as well as adding a second Large Air Tanker. These are truly statewide efforts, and this base is another example of that collaboration. Fires don’t care about borders and collaboration is key," said Colorado Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera.
"I am pleased to see this collaborative effort between the Colorado Springs Airport, the City of Colorado Springs, and the U.S. Forest Service come to fruition and bring one of the nation’s largest, most state-of-the-art Airtanker Base units to the Pikes Peak region permanently. During a time when Colorado and the west are facing record dry conditions, the strategic location of this airtanker base will undoubtedly prove to be a critical asset for the aerial firefighting mission,” Congressman Doug Lamborn said. “I was glad to work at the federal level on behalf of Colorado’s 5th Congressional District to ensure that the Forest Service had the resources necessary to make opening the Colorado Springs Airtanker Base a reality.”
“We’re no strangers to wildfire here in Colorado Springs. Our location at the foot of Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain, makes Colorado Springs a highly desirable place to live, work, and play, but it also means we have a very large wildland urban interface. We take seriously our role as a leader in managing the wildfire threat. With increasing population in our region and state, and with dangerous fire conditions always on our minds, the Pikes Peak region is an ideal place to locate this airtanker base,” said Mayor John Suthers. “Colorado Springs is always at the forefront of protecting our nation, whether the threat comes from fire, land, air, space, or cyberspace. We welcome the airtanker base to Colorado Springs and look forward to it serving our region, our state and surrounding areas,” he added.
“Air tankers provide such crucial support to firefighters and communities, I cannot overstate the value of this resource,” said Jacque Buchanan from the USDA Forest Service. “The Colorado Springs Airtanker Base will facilitate efficient responses to wildfires throughout Colorado and portions of Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma.”
Congress awarded the USDA Forest Service funding for the Colorado Springs Airtanker Base as part of the 2018 Omnibus Bill that repurposed previous allocations to the USDA Forest Service Aviation Safety and Modernization Strategy. This project represents nearly a quarter of the total $37.2 million Aviation Safety Modernization Projects budget and is among the largest investments to be implemented. The City of Colorado Springs provided additional funding.