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Austin News

Austin Air Tanker Base Provides Support with Texas A&M Forest Service to Combat Wildfires

On Saturday, September 2, 2023, the Austin Fire Department reassigned three of our members—Lieutenants Chris Dibrell and Jason Rudloff (both from our Wildfire division), along with Firefighter Latoya Walker (E41/A)―to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to assist the Texas A&M Forest Service with opening the Air Tanker Base. Because of the ongoing high fire danger in our area, as well as the rest of the state, the activation of this base means the planes that spread retardant {Large Airtankers (LATs) and Very Large Airtankers (VLATs)} can refuel here and get anywhere in Texas in less than an hour.

The Austin airport is the only one in the state that can accommodate these types of large planes; those who work there take care of directing and parking aircraft of all sizes, mixing the large amounts of retardant needed, pumping it onto the planes, and then launching them to their missions.

Shortly after opening, a LAT entered the pit to have retardant loaded; those planes can hold between 3000 to 4000 gallons depending on the type of aircraft. VLATs―of which our crew filled two that same day―hold close to 10,000 gallons. In total, they loaded 15 aircraft on Saturday (the most missions ever supported in one day), dispensing approximately 63,000 gallons of retardant and 23,000 gallons of fuel; most of that went to the Game Preserve Fire in Huntsville (~4,200+ acres burned, 40 percent contained).

The tanker base is designed to be temporary and operational only when there is a heightened fire danger in the state. Learn more about these and other aircraft used to fight wildfires by visiting

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