Upgraded Santa Maria Air Tanker Base ready to provide aerial support for future wildfires

    SANTA MARIA, Calif. — The Santa Maria Air Tanker Base recently upgraded its facility just in time for the beginning of the start of the high fire danger rating period.

    “We’re ready to go,” said Brian Sexton, U.S. Forest Service Aviation Officer. “We’ve made an upgrade to this base and added an extra pit where we have an extra 60,000 gallons of retardant available for use and it can service the very large air tankers.”

    The new fire retardant fueling station gives the tanker base, which is located at the Santa Maria Airport and is operated by the U.S. Forest Service, added ability to provide support during wildfire response.

    “It’s extremely vital,” said Sexton. “The new pit is wide open. We can load a very large tanker like the DC-10 here at the airport. It increases our capacity and our ability to deliver to more retardant to the boots on the ground on the fire.”

    According to tanker base manager Andrea Helming, the new refueling station essentially adds a second base to the operation.

    “This doubles our capacity,” said Helming. “We can load three tankers here simultaneously on this side, same as the other side. Any air tanker that comes in here, we can load at the same time, so it’s really quick. Get ’em in. Get ’em out.”

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