When air tanker crews go on duty each year they are often on the road three to maybe even six months at a time. This job is not for homebodies, as we often spend more nights in hotel rooms than we do at home through the year. To facilitate loading the aircraft and provide a place for the aircrews to hangout, the United States aerial firefighting fleet is provided with a collection of tanker bases that are scattered all across our nation. They are managed by different agencies and are as diverse as simple portable pumps and tanks to multi-million dollar facilities, but all with the same mission, service the aircraft. Flight crews often spend up to fourteen hours a day at them. At the beginning of each season, the fire aircraft are assigned a home base or starting point. This will not necessarily be where they will remain all year because as national assets they may be sent wherever the need arises. Some districts are more possessive than others and though they may loan aircraft out they want them back at the end of the mission. Full service tanker bases are equipped to load SEATs, heavy air tankers and possibly very large air tankers. Most are very nice permanent facilities with a flight crew lounge, rest areas, full kitchens and a laundry room. They have contracted crews that load the aircraft, manage traffic on the ramp, and record aircraft times. During heavy fire activity, they can become very crowded busy places. When the activity shifts to another area, they almost become deserted overnight. Portable Air Tanker Bases (PABs) are large trucks that contain everything to set up a base at any location. The federal government has two of them and several states have incorporated them into their system. They do not have lounge or kitchen facilities, but the agency may bring in trailers or portable buildings for these purposes. Some SEAT bases are just as nice as their full service counterparts or they can be as simple as setting up the venders loading trailer. In this case, the crew hangout may be sitting in the service truck with the air conditioning or heater running. Tanker bases are as diverse as one can imagine, but they all have one thing in common, all are a home away from home.]]>