The U.S. Bureau of Land Management wants to expand an airtanker base at the Roswell Air Center it uses for firefighting operations.
The BLM operates what it refers to as a Single-Engine Airtanker (SEAT) base on the east side of the Roswell Air Center, one of 30 BLM emergency fire response tanker bases in 13 Western states, according to BLM documents. Questions were referred to a BLM state communications director, who did not respond to requests for information.
A project estimated at $350,000 would construct a new 40-foot by 50-foot by 16-foot building for fire retardant, or “slurry,” storage and a 2,000-square-foot workshop. A separate project estimated at $300,000 would expand the operation’s ramp area and construct a trench drain and a loading pit that also can be used for fire retardant loading and wash down, according to the documents provided.
As part of the expansion, the city is being asked to give BLM a new ground lease. According to Jenna Lanfor, property manager and contract coordinator for the Roswell Air Center, the BLM has had a lease for about 117,667 square feet, or about 2.6. acres, since October 2008, when it began construction on its airtanker base here. The new lease would be for the same area and the same amount of land. Lease terms would be for 25 years starting in October. The rent would be $11,767 a year, or $981 a month, for the first year, with annual increases of about 3% a year.
The city of Roswell Airport Advisory Commission heard the lease at its Feb. 7 meeting. The Roswell City Council Legal Committee is scheduled to consider the agreement during a Thursday afternoon meeting at City Hall.
Lanfor has said that getting the new lease in place is the first step the BLM wants before firming up its expansion plans.
According to BLM websites and documents, the Roswell base hosts single-engine tankers during peak fire seasons. The site is also used reload large airtankers. The firefighting operations typically run from May to September. The New Mexico state operations of the BLM have responsibility for fire management on 13.5 acres of public land in four districts in the state. In 2020, the Roswell base responded to 12 wildfires in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.