Governor Abbott Activates Austin Airtanker Base For Wildfire Response

September 1, 2023 | Austin, Texas | Press Release

Governor Greg Abbott today announced that he directed the Texas A&M Forest Service, through the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), to open the Austin Airtanker Base at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to assist state and local responders in wildfire suppression efforts across Texas ahead of the holiday weekend.
“Texas has activated the Austin Airtanker Base to further assist our brave firefighters and emergency response personnel throughout the state and protect Texans from these wildfires,” said Governor Abbott. “Additional resources through this airtanker base will provide even greater support to state and local officials as they swiftly respond. With triple-digit heat forecasted for this Labor Day weekend, I urge Texans to remain weather-aware and limit any activities that may cause sparks or flames that could lead to accidental fires. I thank our heroic first responders who continue to selflessly serve and protect their fellow Texans from these devastating wildfires.”
Opening the airtanker base will allow for faster response times and greater cost efficiency when responding to wildfires in Texas. The Austin Airtanker Base will serve as a reload station for aircraft coming and going to wildfires and will create an additional reload station to supplement the Airtanker Base in Abilene.
The Austin Airtanker Base is the only airport in the state set up for a Very Large Airtanker, or DC-10. The base is equipped to handle all aircraft in the national airtanker fleet, including those aircraft used to drop fire retardant during wildfires. The base will be manned by trained and qualified personnel from the Texas A&M Forest Service, USDA Forest Service, and Austin Fire Department.
Additionally, the Governor expanded the state’s wildfire disaster declaration to include 10 additional counties impacted by wildfire activity or fire weather conditions: Collin, Delta, Dickens, Fisher, Hopkins, Kinney, Lamar, Roberts, Sutton, and Wood counties. The Governor’s declaration now includes 216 counties. The declaration was initially issued on August 11 and amended the declaration on August 22. Additional counties may be added as conditions warrant.
According to the Texas A&M Forest Service, hot and dry conditions will continue to increase potential for wildfire activity th rough Labor Day weekend. With triple-digit temperatures in the forecast, more than 98 percent of the state is experiencing some level of drought or abnormal drying.
Since June 28, the Texas A&M Forest Service and local fire departments have responded to over 2,125 wildfires burning more than 89,700 acres. In the same timeframe, more than 105 fire departments from over 90 Texas cities have responded to wildfire activity across the state as part of the Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, deploying more than 965 personnel and over 210 fire engines.
At the Governor's direction, the following resources remain deployed by TDEM and the Texas A&M Forest Service to support Texas’ wildfire response efforts:

  • More than 690 firefighters from the Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System;
  • More than 480 out-of-state firefighters from 38 states and territories;
  • Over 130 fire engines;
  • 118 bulldozers and three motor graders;
  • 35 Fixed-Wing Firefighting Aircraft;
  • Nine firefighting helicopters;
  • Eight Emergency Medical Task Force Wildland Fire Support Packages;
  • Four crew modules;
  • One handcrew. 

The Wildland Fire Preparedness Level remains at Preparedness Level 4 due to fuel and weather conditions, current and expected wildfire activity, regional preparedness levels, and fire-suppression resource availability in the state.
Texans are urged to limit activities that may cause sparks or flames, make an emergency plan, heed warnings from officials, and keep emergency supplies easily accessible.
Texans can visit and for wildfire tips and safety information.
B-Roll footage provided by the Texas A&M Forest Service.