While the level pumped is not a record, it represents another very active fire year. Over the past 10 years the base has averaged 821,500 gallons of retardant pumped, with the high being 1.6 million gallons in 1994, and the low being 95,000 gallons for the combined years 2008 and 2009.
“The first batch of retardant used this year was delivered on June 6, said Les Dixon, Boise Airtanker Base Manager.” Since then, 700 loads of retardant have been delivered to fires within a 120 mile radius.”
Last week, the Teepee Fire near Riggins received the load of retardant that surpassed the one million gallon mark for this season. Air tanker capacity can range from 700 to 3,000 gallons. The crew at the base can fill a Single Engine Air Tanker (called SEATS) in two minutes and a Heavy Air Tanker in less than 10 minutes.
“Every year the air tanker base operation helps with wildfire containment in multiple states,” said Doug Marolf, Boise Forest Aviation Officer.
Their busiest day this year supported 4 different fire incidents with air tankers dropping close to 96,000 gallons of retardant to help ground crews by cooling or “retarding” a fire’s growth.
Retardant application is especially important for initial attack on a newly emerging fire. The aircraft can reach a fire quickly and apply retardant to slow fire growth, thus allowing firefighters more time, and efficiency, to build containment lines.
“Of all the benefits from retardant fixed wing air tankers, initial attack is paramount,” said Sean Johnson, Deputy Fire Management Office for the Boise National Forest. “Their second major benefit is to cool a rapidly spreading wildfire by giving firefighters more time to build fireline, or to protect a fireline by reducing the intensity of a wildfire.”