Businessman and volunteer firefighter Bill Garrison arrived Tuesday evening at Hutchinson Regional Airport, according to KSN-TV, with Tanker 154, a Grumman S-2 airtanker that he purchased at auction from Mesa Air in December. He has spent several months getting the tanker ready to fly back to Kansas.
Garrison has been a pilot for 44 years and is a full-time commercial and agriculture pilot with his company Ag Air Service, first enlisted to help fight Kansas wildfires in 2017. He started with his cropdusting AirTractor aircraft but then went on to purchase Tanker 95, another S-2 tanker that was previously flown by CAL FIRE.
VIDEO: Bill Garrison flew in Tanker 154 from Arizona to the Hutchinson Regional Airport.
KAKE-ABC reported that in 2017 when the Highland Fire in Reno County burned thousands of acres and destroyed 10 homes, Garrison decided he was going to need something a lot bigger than his cropdusters. That’s when he bought Tanker 95, and this week he welcomed Tanker 154 to the fleet.
“We ought to be doubly effective, be able to send aircraft on multiple fires,” Garrison said. “Whereas before I’d have to work one fire and then get dispatched to another one, now we can send an aircraft to each fire.”
Tanker 95 is currently contracted through the Kansas Forest Service. Garrison’s firefighting aircraft have worked on large wildfires in Reno County since 2017 using cropdusters, according to Adam Weishaar, director of Reno County Emergency Management. “This second airtanker will be a valuable asset to Reno County and the state of Kansas to assist with aerial firefighting. We are very fortunate to have an airtanker stationed and available in Reno County.”
Garrison’s planes are used on a contracted as-needed basis by the Kansas Forest Service, and it’s hoped that the airport can make retardant available.