BROOMFIELD, Colo. (KDVR) — On the west side of the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, AirTankers are delivering much-needed help to firefighters across Colorado.
The JeffCo AirTanker Base is being used from dawn until dusk, filling massive jets with fire retardant to fight fires in multiple counties.
“This is the busiest year that this base has seen,” says Tanker Base Manager Scott Headrick.
Headrick’s team has now doled out 1.7 million gallons of retardant, the most they’ve ever used in a single year.
For the past few days, people in Boulder County have seen and heard those AirTankers pounding the CalWood Fire.
Unlike helicopters, Headrick says the AirTankers are not used to put out fire. Instead, they create a line with retardant to stop it from growing.
“It doesn’t put out the fire, it slows the spread of the fire,” says Headrick. “Which allows folks on the ground to get in there, and get direct with the fire, and start working that fire’s edge.”
Headrick says that’s also why retardant mixtures are bright red or pink.
“We don’t want it to blend in with the natural landscape, so we choose a red, or a fluorescent pink, so it stands out.”
Headrick says the AirTankers can make it to the CalWood fire and back in about 30 minutes.
Pilots can drop all 3,000 gallons of retardant at once, or they can spread it out.
“They determine where the AirTankers go based on highest need, highest priority and values at risk,” he says. “Our job is to keep them here ready and get them back to the folks on the ground as fast as we can.”