Forest Service to open fire tanker base in Lake City


Published: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 7, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
LAKE CITY - The federal government's newest place of business in North Florida will open Monday at the Lake City Airport - a U.S. Forest Service Fire Tanker Base.
"During our wildfire season that begins in April, one tanker plane will be stationed there to cover this part of Florida as well as southern Georgia and part of Alabama," said Denise Rains, a public affairs officer for the Forest Service. "We wanted it there because the existing base in Tallahassee - the only other one in Florida - has been overwhelmed in heavy fire seasons and because between the Okefenokee (Swamp in Georgia) and Lake City we have one of the largest wildlife corridors east of the Mississippi (River)."
When the base opens during a public ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, the plane that is expected to be stationed there will probably still be missing. That plane has been dispatched to help fight the wildfires in Oklahoma and Texas, which is how the federal tanker base system is supposed to work.
Rains said the agency has 20 tankers under contract and although each is assigned a home airport, they are dispatched as-needed nationwide depending on which wildfire season is under way.
"So when our season begins in April or so, there could be as many as 10 planes brought in to help fight our fires," Rains said.
The base has been developed with a combination of state and federal money because governments at both levels were convinced of the need for the base.
"It's exceedingly important that we have resources in any rural area where wildfires are a problem," said Terence McElroy, spokesman for the Florida Division of Forestry. "The more resources you have - particularly air resources - the quicker your response can be and so less acreage will be burned."
In addition to a site manager, a "mix master" will be hired for the new base. The mix master will be responsible for handling details of the 2,400 gallons of fire retardant that can be loaded onto each tanker.
Rains said the retardant is a mixture of water, fertilizer and gum thickener that makes the retardant stick to plants as well as a red colorant that makes the treated area visible to pilots.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

Headline downstyle at a glance

  • Public grand opening/dedication for the U.S. Forest Service Fire Tanker Base will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at the Lake City Airport on U.S. 90 East.
    FYI - U.S. Forest Service Fire Tanker Base
    Public grand opening/dedication Monday at 10 a.m.
    Lake City Airport on U.S. 90 East Public grand opening/dedication for the U.S. Forest Service Fire Tanker Base will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at the Lake City Airport on U.S. 90 East.
    U.S. Forest Service Fire Tanker Base
  • WHAT: Public grand opening/dedication
  • WHEN: Monday at 10 a.m.
  • WHERE: Lake City Airport on U.S. 90 East
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