Hutchinson Regional Airport to be first permanent air base for aerial fire support in Kansas

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HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – The engines of a Korean War plane will soon be roaring at the Hutchinson Regional Airport.

It is not for show. The plane is on a mission to fight.

“I bought this from a museum in Nevada,” says Bill Garrison, owner of Ag Air Service, Inc.

More than 60 years after the war, the Grumman S-2 Tracker is still in its prime.

“We are at the point where it is ready to fly and start dropping water,” says Garrison.

Garrison says the plane is ready to use to fight wildland fires.

“It carries more water and dumps a higher density load,” he says.

It is stationed at the Hutchinson airport which is the first permanent base in Kansas for an air tanker dedicated to fighting fires from the air.

“This started back in 2017 when there were fires north of Hutch. In order to help the National Guard out, Bill Garrison and some of his ag planes came in and started dropping water, too,” says Pieter Miller, the airport manager.

Garrison was using his own crop duster and realized something a bit bigger could help. Now, he has a spot at the airport and says they are not far from reaching the final details to be able to dispatch locally and around the entire state.

“Given the call to use this plane can significantly improve our outcomes and to do that we make a call to our State Emergency Operation Center and make a formal request,” says Jeremy Unruh, Hutchinson Fire Battalion Chief.

Garrison believes it won’t be long before it is off the ground and being used when needed.

“The State Forest Service was all for it,” says Garrison, “It was not too hard to sell it to them.”

KSN spoke with the Kansas Forest Service about the new partnership and they released the following statement:

Kansas Forest Service is excited to partner with the Hutchinson airport to establish the first permanent air tanker base in Kansas to house an air tanker for wildfire suppression in the state. For fire departments to use the air tanker they can contact the Kansas Forest Service Fire Duty Officer at 785-532-3321.”

Rodney Redinger, Kansas Forest Service

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