Ruidoso’s municipal airport is transitioning quickly from having no fire fighting resources stationed there to accommodating two single-engine air tankers and one Type 2 helicopter.
Chad Stewart, fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said officials with the Bureau of Land Management would be stationing a second SEAT at Sierra Blanca Regional Airport. The first already was announced and is scheduled to arrive May 19. The expense will be split between the Bureau of Indian Affairs providing the aircraft and the USFS handling the personnel, he said. The Forest Service also is working on a plan to provide a Type 2 helicopter.
Stewart clarified that as usual, if a fire breaks out elsewhere and any of the aircraft are needed, they will be dispatched. That mandatory reassignment when necessary is one of the main reasons that Ruidoso officials argued against the village paying for a SEAT that could end up fighting fires somewhere else for lengthy periods.
But with the Lincoln National Forest around Ruidoso exceptionally dry from a prolonged drought and no substantial break in the weather forecast, the local airport north of town seemed a logical site for the air resources, officials said.