- Associated Press - Sunday, March 2, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The company that flies the DC-10 aircraft typically used in fighting huge wildfires is now calling New Mexico home.

The manufacturer of the fixed-wing air tanker completed its relocation, which started in October, from California to the Albuquerque Sunport, KRQE-TV reported this week (http://bit.ly/NwSYk6).

Rick Hatton, president and CEO of 10 Tanker Air Carrier, said the company looked at several other places.

“We surveyed a number of states and found that New Mexico, in particular Albuquerque, to be very suitable. The weather is good, we can work on the airplane outside all year round, the ramp space is available,” Hatton said.

The move comes as many in New Mexico are concerned about the upcoming fire season. The U.S. Forest Service, which has a contract with the company, said the agency will spend the next two months determining how bad the fire season may be.

The DC-10 air tanker is equipped with what is considered one of the largest external fire-retardant tanks, capable of holding 12,000 gallons of water or flame retardant.

Under the contract, which takes effect April 3, DC-10 crews are expected to fly toward a fire within 30 minutes of being issued the assignment. The U.S. Forest Service can choose to renew the contract each year for the next five years.

“We hope to grow the company by getting more of those kinds of contracts,” Hatton said.

There are currently two functional tankers available, and the company is building a third. They would all be stationed in Albuquerque, but they can be dispatched to different states if needed, he said. The carrier employs 20 people full-time.

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Information from: KRQE-TV, http://www.krqe.com