Global SuperTanker could soon fight fires in Colorado

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - The world's largest firefighting tanker is moving closer to fighting fires in Colorado. The Global SuperTanker is housed in Colorado Springs, but right now it can't join the fight.

The Global SuperTanker is housed at the Colorado Springs Airport.

However, the company told 11 News they are working on a contract with the state of Colorado right now. The state could potentially sign off on it in June.

Next month marks five years since the Waldo Canyon Fire. In just a matter of weeks, we might be able to use the powerhouse firefighting tool on fires like that.

"We've made an agreement, sort of a sweetheart deal if you will, with both Douglas County and the state of Colorado because we do consider it home," said Bob Soelberg, senior vice president and program manager of the SuperTanker.

The Global SuperTanker is capable of dumping 20,000 gallons of retardant.

It has fought fires in Israel and Chile, but it hasn't been able to fight here because there's no contract.

"We're here, we want to be available and be ready," Soelberg added.

Douglas County just signed a $200,000 contract. It's the first county in the nation to make a deal with the giant tanker.

“It is a 'call-when-needed' contract so they are able to sign this without any current obligation to the taxpayers of the state. They have the ability, without going back to the commission for additional funds, to spend up to $200,000," he said.

"We are very happy that Douglas County, the commissioners, are ahead of the game in terms of being prepared in advance of when the fires start. Most counties or cities get to this point and they react when the fire happens, and at that point, it's too late to arrange the details of the contract that's needed," he added.

Soon the state could sign off on a deal allowing the tanker to fight fires anywhere in Colorado.

"It is also a 'call-when-needed' contract, which means there is no expense to the state until they call us out. So it's not like they'd be committing the state to millions of dollars. It's zero dollars until you really need it," Soelberg said.

"We have a draft agreement on the table with them. It's been approved to go forward for the final reviews. We would expect that to -- according to their comments -- be available for final review sometime early in June," he added.

The company is glad to be able to use the resource here at home.

"It's great. It's a long time coming. These are not things that are put together quickly or easily," Soelberg said.

The aircraft still cannot fight fires on any U.S. Forest Service land, but a separate contract for that is in the works.

"In fact, we're in the process of generating some documents and letters with them today and we'll go forward with that," he said.

Once it's approved, the tanker can be used anywhere in the country on U.S. Forest Service land.

Right now, the aircraft is in Arizona for maintenance and testing.

The aircraft received final approval from the FAA last September.

The SuperTanker has a contract pending with the state of California, too. It could be approved in a few weeks. We'll keep you updated.