A California company that operates two large, jet-powered air tankers for fighting wildfires is moving from California to Wyoming.
Victorville, Calif.,-based 10 Tanker Air Carrier operates two Boeing DC-10 passenger planes it has modified to drop up to 11,600 gallons of fire-retardant slurry. That’s about four times the capacity of the next-biggest large air tankers under contract by the U.S. Forest Service.
The company is preparing to move from Victorville, east of Los Angeles, to the Casper airport within the next month or so, bringing 16 or so employees.
Earlier this month, 10 Tanker was one of five air tanker companies to receive a U.S. Forest Service contract to fly jet-powered, “next-generation” air tankers that meet certain requirements for speed and slurry capacity.
The company will fly one of its planes under the next-generation contract and the other on a call-as-needed basis.
“We continue to enjoy a very good relationship with California and the Forest Service, but there’s no compelling reason for us to continue to locate here in Victorville,” 10 Tanker Air Carrier President Rick Hatton said May 15.
Being based in Casper, he said, will give his company closer access to other regions of the U.S. Forest Service system.
It will be Wyoming’s first active company flying large air tankers since Greybull-based Hawkins & Powers closed in 2005.
Last year’s busy wildfire season provided a lot of business to 10 Tanker. The company flew one of its DC-10s against the Sheep Herder Hill Fire on Casper Mountain last summer.
The planned move was first reported by the Casper Star-Tribune. Hatton told the newspaper he was impressed by the Casper airport staff’s “can do” attitude and with its facilities.
The company got started in 2002 and previously operated under a call-as-needed contract with the Forest Service.
From 2006-2009, 10 Tanker had a three-year contract with California to fight fires in that state. The company was lined up for another, three-year contract but lost it at the last minute due to state budget cuts, Hatton said.
“We survived two budget cuts but we didn’t survive the third in Sacramento,” Hatton said. “Fortunately, there was some ad-hoc work.”
To date, the company has flown 687 fire missions on 130 different fires, yet Hatton said he continues to have to convince people the DC-10 is an ideal plane for fighting wildfires.
The DC-10 is at least as maneuverable as other large air tankers, he said, and is at least as safe as other planes to fly against wildfires.