ROCK SPRINGS — The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) $2.1 million aerial firefighting facility being constructed at the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport is progressing right along.
“This project is the first purpose built state-of-the-art aerial firefighting facility in the country,” Airport Director Devon Brubaker said.
The facility is located on the northwest side of the airport across from the airport’s water-distribution system, along taxiway E, which currently leads to 45 plus hangars. Construction of the base started in June and is anticipated to wrap up in August.
It will be big enough to house six Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) or four SEATs and two twin otter smoke jumper aircraft. This facility will include all of the latest environmental protections including secondary containment for retardant tanks, a three-way valve to divert retardant into a holding pond, and electric pumps.
There will also be about 72,000 square feet of new aircraft apron for the BLM to use. Once complete, there will be a pavilion for flight and ground crews to seek shelter and a storage shed for supplies and materials, Brubaker said.
The SEAT base, which was designed by the airport’s master consultant, T-O Engineers out of Cody, will provide aerial firefighting capabilities to Southwest Wyoming, Northwest Colorado and Northeast Utah.
“The airport is responsible for constructing the improvements on behalf of the BLM,” Brubaker said. “They will retain ownership of the real property assets on the leased land. The BLM is reimbursing the airport for all design, construction and impact costs throughout the project.”
Not only will this base hold today’s SEATs, but it is being construction to hold larger SEATs.
“We anticipate that the BLM will find our location and facility to be prime, resulting in additional resources being staged here throughout the fire season,” Brubaker said.
Brubaker believes Sweetwater County will see benefits from this project in a couple of ways. One is having resources close to the county and the other is the financial contribution the county will see.
“Having aerial firefighting resources in our own backyard provides quicker response to wildland fires throughout our region,” he said. “It will provide timely help to the boots on the ground and assist them in protecting natural and manmade assets in an efficient manner.”
“This is the first outside agency development on airport property in its 75 plus year history,” Brubaker said. “It will provide ongoing revenue for the airport through lease revenues, fuel sales, water sales and landing fees. This new source of revenue advances our efforts to diversify our revenue streams and achieve operational self-sustainability.”
Brubaker is hopeful that projects like with one will allow the airport to become more independent so it will not have to rely on Sweetwater County and the City of Rock Springs for funding.
In addition to the SEAT base facility, the BLM also asked the airport to renovate a 5,000-square foot area in an adjacent hanger for a Base Operations Center for the BLM and office space for the University of Utah (UofU). This project is expected to cost about $800,000.
The renovation of the office space for BLM and UofU is being split between the two tenants and the airport. The airport will be paying for the facility to be brought up to a warm-lit code and the remainder will be paid for by the tenants.