DFPC leases new office at Rifle Garfield County Airport

Division of Fire Prevention & Control signs 10-year lease for renovated home

April 9, 2018

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – A single engine air tanker (SEAT) base crew will call a new office at the Rifle Garfield County Airport home for the next 10 years, after the Division of Fire Prevention & Control (DFPC) and Garfield County agreed to a lease this week.

The DFPC has operated the SEAT base out of a mobile trailer at the airport that doesn’t adequately meet its needs. The county offered use of the old house on the airport property that previously housed the county airport administration in the 1980s and ’90s.

“The trailer doesn’t stay very cool, and they’re supposed to get rest in there and conduct operations with multiple radios in use,” said Airport Director Brian Condie. “Last year we talked to them about remodeling the house to make them an office space.”

Clinton Bellingar, SEAT base manager for the DFPC, said the new office provides a much more efficient space to run fire-fighting operations, and is beneficial for all agencies involved.

“This is going to be a great asset to have,” he said. “The Rifle SEAT base supports the Grand Junction air tanker base, and when they get busy, we see a lot more single engine air tankers here. At one point, we had as many as seven SEATs here during fire season.”

The remodeled house at the site will now serve as the new office for the operation of a single engine air tanker base, and possibly other agencies when needed. The DFPC will pay the county a monthly cost of $357.50, plus utilities, which is the market rate for the office space. The remodel, including demolition, construction, and furniture, cost $96,963, which was under the budgeted amount for the project.

“Our goal is to make this our base of operations for one of our single engine tankers,” said Vince Welbaum, aviation unit chief for DFPC. “We certainly want to thank you for investing in the office, and we’re excited to move in. It is the envy of SEAT bases in Colorado.”

He added that the single engine tanker will begin operations out of Rifle on June 1, and it is contracted for 150 days of service.

“I appreciate that the Rifle Garfield County Airport is being used for firefighting,” said
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “I think it’s in a great location on the Western Slope. It’s at a great airport.”

The SEAT base station was recently upgraded to accommodate up to six planes at a time, allowing flame retardant to be pumped into the aircraft in as little as five minutes. This lessens ground time for pilots battling wildfires in Garfield County. Bellingar added that a water-enhancing fire suppressant is being tested and evaluated by SEATs operating out of Rifle. The station also serves as a year-around, dual-purpose fueling station, and de-icing pad in winter.

“Brian (Condie), the county, and the airport staff have been a tremendous support,” Bellingar said. “We’re grateful for their support, and we want to support them.”

The lease proposal was approved unanimously, 3-0.