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Redmond Tankers Drop $1.9 Million In Retardant

by Dylan J. Darling--The Bulletin |

Crews at Redmond Air Center’s tanker base loaded nearly 1 million gallons of retardant into air tankers this fire season, contributing to a huge year for the five large tanker bases in the Northwest.

“I think (the amount of retardant used) just shows that it was a really busy year here in Oregon and Washington,” said Maurice Evans, manager at the Redmond Air Center. Located at Redmond Airport, the Redmond Air Center houses a tanker base — where air tankers pick up fuel and retardant — a smokejumper base and the Redmond Hotshots’ home base.

The Redmond Air Center used 950,797 gallons of retardant this year, according to a U.S. Forest Service report detailing retardant use for the fire season. Air tankers dropped the retardant in 362 loads, with a cost of more than $1.9 million. Throughout the Northwest, air tankers dropped 5,491,895 gallons of retardant in 2,028 loads this fire season, costing more than $11 million combined.

Around Oregon and Washington, the amount of retardant used by air tanker bases was 2½ times the 20-year average, according to the report, and the most since Northwest tanker bases used a combined 7,073,992 gallons in 1994.

Firefighters call for air tanker support when trying to corral wildfires. The bright red slurry doesn’t douse flames but coats vegetation and slows the spread of fire.

The fire season in Central Oregon got off to an early start, with the first retardant load of the season dropped June 7 at the Two Bulls Fire near Bend.

The day turned out to be particularly busy for the Redmond Air Center, with tankers dropping more than 77,000 gallons of retardant. The Two Bulls Fire burned 6,908 acres and prompted the evacuation of nearly 200 homes in and near the western edge of Bend. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office announcing in June the fire was likely arson.

Redmond Air Center’s last load of retardant for the season came on Sept. 21, according to the report, with an air tanker dropping on the 36 Pit Fire near Estacada, according to the report. The federal Incident Information website shows the human-caused, 5,521-acre fire started Sept. 13 and wasn’t declared fully contained until Wednesday.

Evans said wildfires could have burned into October in Central Oregon as well, but last month was quiet.

Overall, the fire season was the busiest at the Redmond Air Center in the four years Evans has been its manager. He was proud of the safety record this year for the base, which had no major injuries.

“It was an outstanding year given what we had to face,” Evans said.