Expansion of Air Tanker Capabilities at the Prescott Municipal Airport

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Thursday, November 19, 2015, at the Prescott Fire Center, 2400 Melville Drive, Prescott Arizona, to mark the completion of a project which began in July 2015 among the City of Prescott, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

The joint project improved the aircraft apron and capacity at the Air Tanker Base located at the Henry YH Kim – Prescott Fire Center. The Prescott Air Tanker Base has existed since 1958, and in its current location at the Prescott Fire Center since 1992. The latest improvements have increased capacity for loading fire retardant to accommodate the new generation of air tankers, as well as other small fixed-wing tactical aircraft and helicopters used to fight wildfires in the summer. The Prescott Air Tanker base provides a valuable resource for the suppression of wildfires to communities in the Prescott region, the State of Arizona, and to other locations threatened by wildfire as far away as 500 miles.

The Prescott City Council accepted a $1.44 million grant from ADOT in October, 2014, for the design and construction of improvements and repair of the apron. The USFS contributed $1.3 million of capital improvement funds to add to the apron, an additional air tanker loading pit, improve small fixed-wing parking, and increase the size of an existing helicopter landing pad.

“This improvement can reduce the USFS response time during a forest fire operation, which is critical when saving property and lives in Northern Arizona,” said Forest Service Deputy Fire Staff Officer Jeff Andrews.

In the off-season, the apron may be utilized by large corporate and military aircraft requiring larger parking areas.

“This improvement will enhance the firefighting capabilities of the U.S. Forest Service, as well as enable more corporate and military aircraft to utilize the airport, since they can now be parked on a reinforced area and remain overnight,” said Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall. “It’s a great example of federal, state, and local forces working together to strengthen the Air Tanker Base Program.”