ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)- When faced with a raging wildfire, air support can make all the difference in turning the tide and gaining control over the blaze. In Texas, those relief air tankers most often fly out of and refuel at the Texas A&M Forest Service tanker base at the Abilene Airport.

“They (The forest service) really like operating out of Abilene. They have great proximity to a lot of the regions, a lot of the state from here,” said ABI airport Director of Transportation Services Don Green.

Green said the expansion of the base’s capabilities has long been a goal for the Airport. A goal they’re well on their way to achieving with the soon-to-be addition of a second ramp area for tankers to utilize.

“This new ramp will give them the ability to park aircraft without having them spread out all over the airfield like we do right now,” Green explained.

The 22 million dollar project is still in the bidding phase at the moment, but the funds have been secured thanks to a little help from State Representative Stan Lambert.

“We approached Representative Lambert about a year ago,” said Green.

The state will provide $20 million in funds to the city’s $2.2 million to fully cover the estimated cost of the construction. However, design work cannot begin until the state’s fiscal year begins on September 1, 2023.

“We expect to be out for bid by June or July of ’24. And then probably another 12 months to actually construct the ramp itself,” Green shared.

This project is one step closer to bolstering Abilene’s status as a vital part of the fire response for the state. The city and airport working to establish a permanent air tanker base here in the Key City.