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No contract means no supertanker to fight Breckenridge fire

July 6, 2017 Updated: July 6, 2017 at 4:49 pm
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The Global Supertanker taxis off the runway Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at the Colorado Springs Airport. The Boeing 747-400, outfitted for firefighting, can carry 19,400 gallons of water, fire retardant, foam or gel and make a single drop two-miles long or eight segmented drops. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Don't expect to see the giant firefighting Boeing 747-400 aircraft fighting the wildfire that has forced evacuation of more than 400 homes near Breckenridge.

That's because Global Supertanker Services LLC, which is based in Colorado Springs and owns the jet, doesn't have contracts with either the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control or the U.S. Forest Service, said Bob Soelberg, the company's senior vice president and program manager. The company's only contracts are with Douglas County and Calfire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, but hasn't been called on to fight fires at either location, he said.

The aircraft, which can dump 19,200 gallons of water or fire retardant in a single run, was in California last week for testing with the Forest Service and is in Phoenix for the next week or so to have its landing gear replaced as part of required regular maintenance, Soelberg said. The testing had to be suspended because of hot and windy weather, he said.

The state contract has been delayed but a draft of the agreement should be completed next week. The company plans to submit a bid to the Forest Service, which issued a request for proposals in May, but has pushed back the deadline to July 20, Soelberg said. Once a contract is signed, he said, the supertanker can be used to fight fires on federal land.

The aircraft, called the "Spirit of John Muir" and based at the Colorado Springs Airport, was used to fight fires in Israel in November and Chile in January and February.

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Contact Wayne Heilman: 636-0234

Twitter @wayneheilman

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