Believe it or not: SuperTanker reliant on California to fight wildfires in Colorado

Carding process going through CAL FIRE
Posted at 3:11 PM, Jul 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-08 19:38:11-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- With so many firefighters on the front lines, why hasn't Colorado brought in the biggest guns yet to fight the wildfires? 

You might think it would have already been called in to help with fires in Southern Colorado or near Aspen, but instead, California gets the resource first.

"The process to certify the aircraft is very intense,” said Bob Soelberg, Senior Vice President and Program Manager for Global SuperTanker Services, LLC. “They (Colorado) are relying on and have agreed to accept the California carding process to make it available in state for them to use whenever it is available from CAL FIRE."

Here's how the process works: The state of Colorado does not have its own process to check aircraft and flight crews, known as "carding." This is done every year. So, Colorado depends on the U.S. Forest Service, or in the most recent case, CAL FIRE.

Without either of those entities, the state wouldn't be able to use the SuperTanker in the first place.

“There's nothing that stops Colorado right now today from calling CAL FIRE officials and saying, 'hey, I need the aircraft. Can you spare it for a day or two?' That would be up to CAL FIRE,” said Soelberg.

A piece of the carding process has to do with the system that downloads information from the SuperTanker to the ground for more safety and less accidents.

“To make sure that both the operators themselves and the agency that’s responsible for using them is monitoring the aircraft and status for structural integrity,” said Soelberg.

Global SuperTanker officials said the contract with Colorado was signed before fire season started. The delay came working into the fire season. The 416 Fire was already burning and taking a lot of man power, so the state put things on hold.

For residents like Nancy Newbold, who lives near one of the fires burning across the state, the need to get the SuperTanker back home to fight fires in Colorado is heating up.

"Knowing that the fire and the wind could turn at any moment and put us in jeopardy is concerning, it kind of always gets you nervous,” said Newbold.

The Global SuperTanker began operations in fall 2016 overseas in Israel. Last year, the SuperTanker made drops in Chile and California. The tanker has yet to make any drops in Colorado so far.

The Colorado Springs-based Global SuperTanker can drop nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant in a matter of seconds.