Air tankers could mean more jobs in Madras

Firm awaits word on Forest Service firefighting contract

POSTED: 9:59 PM PST January 31, 2013    UPDATED: 10:18 AM PST February 19, 2013 
MADRAS, Ore. -

New life could be coming to the Madras Airport, as a Hillsboro company says they want to bring seven more big air tankers to Central Oregon, to fight wildfires across the West.

Erickson Aero Tanker bought the three-air tanker fleet from Butler Aviation last year. and now they are seeking a contract with the Forest Service to bring next generation MD-87 aircraft to the region.

"They're looking to not only take the Butler aircraft for the state forest fires, but looking to expand for fire suppression services for the Forest Service,"  Madras City Administrator Gus Burril said Thursday.

The deal would mean more skilled jobs for Central Oregon, something the city of Madras is very happy about.

"Right now, we are tracking potentially 22 (more jobs), and up to even 50," said Burril.

He says the city is glad the Hillsboro-based company decided to keep the fleet on the High Desert.

"They did like this location, as far as the ability to expand and stage these MD-87s," said Burril.

The city says the company could be eligible for tax breaks through the city's "enterprise zone," if they want to expand.

The company would have to apply for the tax break sometime in the future.

"I think it will work with this company and help them," said Burril. "We are just really glad to have that zone here in Madras."

The Forest Service is expected to announce which companies will get the contracts in February.