COLORADO SPRINGS — A ribbon cutting ceremony was hosted by the City of Colorado Springs and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service to commemorate the completion of a new airtanker base that will boost firefighting capabilities within a 600-mile radius.

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.

“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.” said Colorado Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera.

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.

“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,” said Congressman Doug Lamborn. 

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.

“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…”

Lt. Primavera, City of Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, Congressman Lamborn, Director of Aviation at the Colorado Springs Airport Greg Phillips, and Dep. Regional Forester Buchanan were present to acknowledge the partners who collaborated on the project, from its planning to the completion of the facility. They also highlighted the advanced capabilities of the base and toured the site.