Mesa-Gateway Airtanker Base gearing up for longer wildfire season
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Arizona’s fire season is getting busier, especially for the heaviest artillery firefighters have. Crews out of the Mesa-Gateway Airtanker Base have more and more work in front of them to put out a growing number of blazes.
In May, Base Manager Chris Price told Arizona’s Family they were off to a slow start. “From sitting and waiting, to can’t catch our breath,” he said.
Over two months later and it’s a much different story. “The big up tick for us has been in the last few weeks. Over that time, we’ve put in over half a million gallons out of this base itself,” Price said.
The base in Mesa provides aerial support for fighting wildfires across the state and region. Crews are ready at any given moment, already responding to 118 missions across 4 states this year. “July 31 is actually our last day at the base and they’re already looking into extending us into August, and then hopefully not into September. But in 2020, we were here until November fighting fires,” he said.
Price says in an average year, they use about 1 million gallons of retardant. In 2020, they used 3.8 million gallons, setting a record.
Unfortunately, Price says with dry fuel and no moisture, this year is looking grim, similar to what they saw in 2020. That’s the wildest season the base has seen. “I don’t see an end for it right now, I think it’s going to string us along for a while until we get into the cooler temperatures,” Price said.
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