Minutes from December 11, 2018 Open Board Meeting-Airtanker base San Bernardino

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Open Board of Directors Meeting

Norton Regional Event Center
1601 E. Third St., Suite 138
San Bernardino, CA 92408


Present:  Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Carole Beswick, Ann Bryan, Mike Burrows, Mark Cloud, Ken Coate, Kevin Dyerly, Ashley Gaines, Louis Goodwin, Mark Kaenel, Lowell King, Bill Lemann, P.T. McEwen, John Mirau, Dan Murphy, Roman Nava, Brian Reider, Thomas Rice, Michael Rivera, Kristine Scott, Phil Southard, David VanVoorhis, and Frank Zabaleta.

Guests:  Mark Gibbs, Boris Medzhibovsky, Catherine Prichett and Todd Warden. 

Announcements: 1) Appreciation was expressed to Ann Bryan for hosting the Holiday party this year.  2) Chair Kristine Scott will be sworn in to the Rancho Cucamonga City Council on December 19, 2018.  3) The meeting dates for the Washington, D.C. advocacy trip will be March 11, 12, & 13, 2019.  A reservation form will be sent to the membership.

M/S/P: Minutes from December 4, 2018.

Mike Burrows introduced Leslie Casavan, San Bernardino Airtanker Base Manager, U.S. Forest Service.

The U.S. Forest Service operates 69 bases nationally, 7 of which are located in California.  The San Bernardino base is considered the biggest and best in the system as they can accommodate all airtankers, serve as a helibase and a smokejumper satellite, and have speedy re-fueling and fire-retardant reloading times.

San Bernardino International Airport (SBIA) has been home to the U.S. Forest Service Airtanker Base for the past 21 years. In 1997, the U.S. Forest Service acquired 20 acres from the Department of Defense to build the airtanker base after Norton Air Force Base was decommissioned.  The Forest Service had previously operated the tanker base at the Hemet-Ryan airport.

The base serves as the backbone of aviation firefighting for the U.S. Forest Service in Southern California providing support for airtankers and helicopters during the annual fire season.  The design of their facility was purposeful, recognizing the intense fire seasons and need to handle the high volume of aircraft reloading necessary to support several large fires simultaneously. The partnership between SBIA and the Airtanker Base is strong and mutually beneficial.  For example, last year SBIA sold 2.6 million gallons of fuel related to Airtanker operations and year-to-date has received approximately $100,000 in landing fees.

The Airtanker Base is operated at peak staffing each year from at least May 29-November 3, depending upon the fire activity of each season.  The retardant plant holds 100,000 gallons of mixed fire retardant, but dry product is also at hand which can be mixed, if necessary.  Built to handle multiple large C-130s, the base has adjusted to accommodate the extremely large DC-10 and 737.  The Forest Service has contracts for aircraft, pilots and maintenance crews but pays for fuel, retardant, landing fees, runway upkeep, grounds/building maintenance and staff.  Their duties include:

  • Respond to dispatches in the initial and extended attack phases
  • Support Federal, State, County and Municipal fires
  • Provide meals, water and logistical support as needed to sustain operations
  • Keep track of all aircraft flights, including cost
  • Provide data for incident, agency or congressional inquires
  • Maintain the grounds, facilities and systems
  • Ensure Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting coverage, as required

Beyond firefighting capabilities, the San Bernardino Airtanker Base provides revenue and benefit to the community. Economic benefits include hotel usage, rental cars and meals for aircrews, restaurant patronage and equipment rentals.  Additionally, they have public outreach, such as information and education programs, as well as a public viewing area.

The last time the base had funding for infrastructure was 2003, and it faces numerous challenges:

  • Restricted to 1 VLAT (very large air tanker) pit with 4 VLATs in operation and more planned
  • Need 2 more mass flow meters to have all 6 LAT pits independent
  • Ability to mix retardant is limited
  • Containment for the VLAT pit
  • Maintenance of the grounds and facilities

A Q & A period followed.  Those present were offered a tour of the Airtanker Base and a brief tour of the new FedEx and UPS facilities at SBIA.

Meeting adjourned at 8:25 a.m.