Colorado county approves first-of-its-kind deal with Global SuperTanker Services

747 Supertanker

Above: 747 Supertanker in Chile, January 26, 2016. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

A Colorado county on Tuesday approved a deal that sets the stage for a response from the largest firefighting aircraft in the world if and when major wildfires flare up near Denver, marking the culmination of a first-of-its-kind contract.

Commissioners in Douglas County on Tuesday approved the one-year, $200,000 deal with Global SuperTanker Services LLC that gives the county access to the mammoth Boeing 747-400 aircraft that can drop roughly 20,000 gallons of water or retardant — nearly double the capacity of its closest rival, the DC-10.

The deal is unique in that it gives the 800-square-mile county situated between Denver and Colorado Springs exclusive access to the SuperTanker.

“Douglas County is establishing a model for wildland fire-prone municipalities to follow,” Bob Soleberg, senior vice president and program manager for Global SuperTanker, said in a statement Tuesday night to Wildfire Today and Fire Aviation. “Their planning is comprehensive and designed to protect lives, property and the natural resources.”

The county’s office of emergency management requested approval of the deal, citing “ongoing dry conditions in and around Douglas County and coupled with the limited air resources in the region for the purpose of wildland fire suppression,” according to county documents proposing the contract.

drop Tanker 944 747-400
The first drop from Tanker 944, the 747-400 operated by Global Supertanker.
The Denver Post first reported elements of the proposed contract on Monday.

Director of Emergency Management Tim Johnson told the newspaper the move was part of a multi-pronged effort ensuring adequate air power existed when fires ignited. From The Post: 

Douglas County has firefighting contracts with Castle Rock-based Rampart Helicopter Service, Broomfield-based HeliQwest, Loveland-based Trans Aero Ltd., and 10 Tanker Air Carrier, which uses DC-10s carrying more than 11,000-gallons capacity on board. It also has access to state and federal firefighting air resources.

“We need redundancies in our abilities during fire season because the resources may not always be available — we want to be able to go down a list,” Johnson said. “We’re leaning forward in terms of preparedness.”

Specific terms and conditions of the contract are available beginning on page 382 of this county commissioners’ board meeting packet, available here.

Avid readers of this website might remember that the SuperTanker made headlines earlier this year when it responded to Chile. Fire Aviation’s own Bill Gabbert embedded with that crew for more than a week and chronicled the trip online.

747 SuperTanker
Local firefighters keep portable tanks full of water that will be used to refill the 747 SuperTanker. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Author: Jason Pohl

In addition to writing for Fire Aviation, Jason Pohl reports on public safety-related issues for The Arizona Republic and USA TODAY.

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