AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas A&M Forest Service is opening an air tanker station in Austin to help fight wildfires in the state.
According to the Forest Service, the base at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will open Saturday and allow for faster response times and higher costs.
“The speed of the air tanker is much faster than a helicopter or a single engine air tanker,” said George Martin, director of the Forest Service’s air operations branch. “These aircraft can reach anywhere in Texas within an hour. Suppression aircraft can respond quickly, increasing the likelihood that new ignitions will be small and manageable wildfires.”
According to TFS, fire activity has been above normal this year, both in terms of burned fires and acres. Since the beginning of the year, TFS has responded to 1,240 wildfires that have burned 497,373 acres.
Above normal fire activity is expected to continue through the summer due to continued hot and dry conditions.
During a major fire event, the TFS uses aviation resources to assist firefighting efforts on the ground. The aircraft helps protect homes and critical infrastructure.
Austin Airtanker Base serves as a reloading station for aircraft responding to wildfires. AUS is the only airport in the state configured for a ‘very large airtanker’ or DC-10 aircraft, according to TFS.
The base is staffed by TFS personnel as well as from the USDA Forest Service and the Austin Fire Department.
“Opening the Austin Air Tanker Base will increase the amount of delay we can provide to wildfires in the state,” said Jared Carnes, head of the Department of Planning and Preparedness at TFS. is available. As hot and dry conditions continue this summer, the increased capacity this base will allow will greatly enhance our firefighting efforts.
According to the Forest Service, 36 aircraft operate at 18 airports. As of Dec. 9, more than 6.8 million gallons of water and retardant have fallen on fires in Texas.