The air tanker base at the Campbell River Airport is getting a multi-million dollar upgrade.
Preparations began Monday for a $3.7 million improvement project that is expected to be complete by June 1 – in time for this year’s forest fire season.
Bruce Coutanche, forest fire protection officer for air tanker operations in B.C., said the base was long overdue for a makeover.
“The base was put in in the mid to late ’70s so it was time for a facelift,” Coutanche said. Brand-new pavement and concrete will be poured in the area where the air tankers are parked and loaded up before setting out to battle wildfires.
Air tankers at the base are used to drop fire suppressant materials such as water and retardant on forest fires and use the runway at the airport. As part of the improvement project, the base will also be getting hooked up to city water and sewer services.
“Up until now it’s been running off a well and there’s a septic field there,” Coutanche said.
The project will also involve upgrading the electrical system.
“Right now we can only have one air tanker group in there (at a time),” Coutanche said. “What we’re going to is a two-load bay facility where we can load two tenants simultaneously.
“We’re trying to upgrade our containments system too so retardant doesn’t end up where it shouldn’t end up,” Coutanche said. “We have a contained facility but it needs upgrading.”
Operations at the air tanker base at the Campbell River Airport are seasonal and typically run from mid-May to the end of September. The upgrades to the base could help attract new business, something the Airport Authority is trying to pursue. According to the minutes of an Airport Authority meeting last year, the city hopes to expand its air tanker base.
“As the air tanker base is leaving Abbotsford, it presents an opportunity for Campbell River to pursue the possibilities of ConAir relocating here,” the minutes read.