Forest Service operates temporary large air tanker base from Casper Natrona County Airport

Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - In the summer, Casper is the home base for two Single Engine Air Tankers, or SEATS, that help fight fires in Wyoming.

For more than two weeks, the Casper Natrona County Airport has been the host to a temporary large and very large air tanker base as the need for air fire fighting operations has increased.

“Casper’s centrally located in the state, it’s a very good place to put a tanker base to help support everywhere in the state of Wyoming,” said U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region Air Tanker Specialist Robby Cline.

The Forest Service controls the operation, they watch fire risk across the country and if the danger is high, they will choose temporary locations based on where resources are needed. Teams are brought in and a mobile retardant base is ordered and set up, then large and very large tankers (LATs and VLATs) can begin using the base.

Tankers from around the region will use the base as they respond to fires in Wyoming and nearby states. If the Casper base is closest, they will use it to continue supporting fire fighting efforts.

“They come from all over, as the need comes... So it’s not the same tankers all the time, a lot of times it is as the need arises for the folks on the ground,” said Cline.

In a statement, Airport Director Glenn Januska said the Casper Natrona County Airport has been working to help support the LAT/VLAT operations for over a decade. They are happy to help protect the county and state by being the host site for a base.

“My feeling is the better we can do in Casper, the better we can help them protect the state, and of course being right here, Natrona County,” said Januska in the statement.

Staff at the base help to mobilize tankers and will support refilling of retardant. At the Casper Natrona County Airport retardant is made by mixing water with retardant, it is then stored on site to be pumped into tankers. The mobile retardant base fills LATs with around 3,000 gallons of fire retardant, and the VLATs with up to 9,400 gallons.

The base supports fire fighting operations in a 300 mile radius from Casper. Response times from the base vary depending on location, but can be up to an hour.

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