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California company hopes to base firefighting aircraft in Colorado

By: WAYNE HEILMAN wayneh@gazette.com
June 19, 2013 Updated: June 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm
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A California company that operates two DC-10 tankers used by the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires wants to contract with the state of Colorado to base one or more of its aircraft in Colorado.

Ten Tanker Air Carrier officials hope to meet with state officials soon about the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, an agency that will be created under recently enacted legislation to acquire, lease or contract for a fleet of aircraft to fight wildfires throughout the state.

"We are vitally interested in reacting to the state's desire for more aerial firefighting resources because of the lack of federal resources and the delays in getting them deployed," Rick Hatton, the company's CEO, said Wednesday.

"One way for the state to have access to its own resources is through a private contractor, and we are in a good position to provide that to them," Hatton said. "It would be up to the state where those resources would be based, but Peterson Air Force Base has all of the attributes we need, but (airports in) Pueblo and Grand Junction also would work."

The U.S. Forest Service contracted last month to use two of the DC-10 tankers from Adelanto, Calif.-based 10 Tanker, including one used last week to battle the Black Forest fire. The tankers can drop 11,600 gallons of fire retardant per mission - or about four times the capacity of military aircraft outfitted to drop retardant on wildfires - and were used more than 200 times last year to fight wildfires throughout the western U.S.

Hatton's company began developing the DC-10 tanker in 2002 and spent $32 million during the next four years getting it certified for use in fighting fires. The state of California used the aircraft between 2007 and 2009 before budget problems prompted the state to end the contract.

The Forest Service began using the tanker on a per-mission basis in 2011, and signed a five-year contract with an option to extend the agreement for another five years.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234 Twitter @wayneheilman

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