ONTARIO — Tankers based at Vale BLM’s Single Engine Air Tanker base at the Ontario Municipal Airport can be loaded and sent back into the air much faster, thanks to new equipment installed this season.

The old loading system required that water and retardant base be mixed ahead of time before being loaded into the tankers. The new system allows water and retardant to be blended as they are loaded, said CJ Hawker, base operator for retardant operations for Perimeter Solutions LP.

A 10,000-gallon tank for water and 12,000-gallon tank for the retardant base sit side-by-side at the base and are directly fed into a “blender,” which does the mixing. After this, retardant is checked for proper consistency before being loaded onto a tanker.

With the new system, a tanker can be loaded in 3 to 4 minutes, Hawker said, a savings of 10 minutes over two planes. While it is new to the Ontario base, he said he had previously used the system with two blenders at Pocatello, enabling the reloading of two tanks at the same time.

In addition, a third tank situated near where the tankers are loaded serves as a holding tank for retardant that could not be dropped and was subsequently brought back to the airport. It is stored and remixed as needed.

Farther away from the reload area sit a large black tank which collects wastewater which comes off the tarmac when it is washed down after a tanker takes off, said Brian Rindlisbacher, SEAT base manager for the Bureau of Land Management - Vale District. The wastewater is then hauled off to be disposed at a site set up to handle that type of waste material, he said.

The base has two air tankers assigned to it. The retardant operation has three people employed at Ontario.

Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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