Airtanker Base prepared for fire season

MEDFORD, Ore. — As of June 1st, officials with the U.S. Forest Service said the Medford Airtanker Base is ready to go for this year’s fire season.

“This is just one tool in the many toolboxes that wildland firefighters use to help support, suppress, and exterminate the fires,” Benjamin Crittenden, Assistant Tanker Base Manager, said.

Last year, Crittenden said they dropped over a million and a half gallons of retardant using these aircraft.

The U.S.  Forest Service runs the base and services areas along the west coast.

“What we have are four tanks, one tank of them being water at 10,000 gallons, and a 10, 12, and 11 gallon for retardant,” Crittenden said.

The air tanker base in Medford is the only very large air tanker base or VLAT in southern Oregon that can host planes needed to combat wildfires.

“While we do throw a lot of retardant on the ground, that retardant as in implied is designed to slow the rate of fire not necessarily put it out,” Crittenden said. “It’s more importantly, supporting the guys on the ground to give them time to get to the areas they need to get to.”

This week the Medford base assisted with the Lumgrey Fire in Siskiyou County.

“We were able to support them because we were the closest tanker base to the area. We took on CAL FIRE aircraft as well as Forest Service contracted aircraft. We did about 10 loads, around 16,818 gallons in one day.”

Crittenden said 14 aircraft are shared across the country. About 10 of them were used last year to put out fires locally.

While we’ve yet to have a major fire spark around the region, Crittenden said they’re trained and ready to respond if and when a fire starts.

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