Battle Mountain Air Attack Base
The Battle Mountain Air Attack Base (BAM) is a full-service contract base which provides aerial fire-fighting support to hundreds of wildland fires throughout Nevada and the Great Basin. The types of aircraft typically in operation at the base during the fire season range from large heavy airtankers and mid-sized aircraft used for smokejumper operations to smaller airplanes used as lead planes and air attack platforms, as well as helicopters. A retardant contractor at the base supplies the Bureau of Land Management with the fire retardant product that is loaded into the airtankers. The contractor also maintains a small staff that is responsible for the actual delivery of the retardant into the airplane. The Bureau of Land Management manages and operates the base during the wildland fire season which typically runs from May through October. The BLM oversees the retardant contract, various aircraft contracts and ensures that the base is fully staffed and operating at an optimal level of safety and efficiency. Normal BLM staffing at the base includes a Base Manager, an Assistant Manager, a Base Radio Operator/Aircraft Timekeeper, and a Ramp Manager. However, depending on the amount of fire activity, as many as 50 to 70 personnel pertinent to base operations, retardant contractors, pilots and other aircrews and smokejumpers may be stationed at the base. The heavy airtankers, which possess a tanking system that holds from 2,000-3,000 gallons of mixed retardant, are the aircraft that actually deliver fire retardant to be dropped on the wildland fire.
Single Engine Air Tankers, commonly known as SEATs, are smaller, crop-duster-type aircraft. While carrying much smaller loads (400 – 800 gallons) of retardant or fire-suppressant foam, they are able to work out of small bases at rural airstrips located close to the fires. With much shorter turn-around times, they are very effective at keeping fires small during initial-attack. Numerous other types of aircraft are typically stationed at and operate from the Battle Mountain Air Attack Base. As stated above, these airplanes also provide aerial firefighting support. Such uses for these aircraft include: smokejumper operations in which an 8-man load of smokejumpers are deployed from the aircraft using parachutes to work as firefighters on the ground at the actual scene of the fire. Other aircraft are used for such missions as leading airtankers to their intended drop zone at the scene of the fire, air attack platforms which provide aerial supervision and coordination over the fire, aerial reconnaissance aircraft, and helicopters which can provide water drops using large buckets, perform crew shuttles and other operations to support the firefighting operation.
The fire retardant chemical that is used here at BAM is a liquid Concentrate designed to be diluted with water and used as an aerial fire retardant for wildfires. The major ingredient is ammonium polyphosphate, a commonly used agricultural fertilizer. It also contains minor amounts of a clay thickener, a corrosion inhibitor and colorant. The retardant is mixed at a 5:1 ratio (five parts water to one part liquid concentrate) prior to being loaded onto an airtanker.
Currently, BAM has a storage capacity for 40,000 gallons of liquid concentrate retardant and 30,000 gallons of water. The aforementioned is stored in 10,000-gallon tanks. There is also a 6,000-gallon storage tank available for off-load purposes. A mass-flow meter manufactured by Micro-Motion, Inc. is used to measure weight and gallons of mixed retardant before it is delivered into the airtanker.
The following information provides the total number of mixed retardant gallons that have been loaded onto heavy airtankers and SEATs at the Battle Mountain Air Attack Base over the course of the past 23 fire seasons.
Year / Total Gallons
2003 = 110,634 gallons
2004 = 83,116 gallons
2005 = 307,947 gallons
2006 = 1,080,673 gallons
2007 = 421,198 gallons
2008 = unavailable
2009 = 89,874 gallons
2010 = 97,428 gallons
2011 = 365,566 gallons
2012 = 250,101 gallons
2013 = 351,414 gallons