I am Tommy Roche, a New York City fireman, and co-owner of property here in West Yellowstone. I am distraught after reading the Chronicle article about the Forest Service closing the West Yellowstone air tanker base.

I have lived and worked as a smokejumper in West Yellowstone for over nine seasons, and I have seen firsthand air tankers dropping retardant on fires dangerously close to town. The Madison Arm fire in 2007 and the Two-Top fire in 2013, and many other fires I don't remember the names of. I would often assist loading the tankers for return flights to the fire. There is no doubt these big airplanes saved our town of West Yellowstone more than once!

I cannot agree with Mr. Schuster saying we will get the same service from bases at Pocatello, Missoula and Helena. An air tanker stationed at the West Yellowstone tanker base can get to a fire here a lot quicker than an air tanker stationed in Helena or Missoula, and they would have to fly all the way back to that base to load more retardant. It does not take a genius to figure out all that would take a lot longer and possibly get my house burned up in the meantime. Also, setting up a temporary tanker base at West Yellowstone makes no sense because there is already a base there, and temporary bases cost $4,200/day rent.

Even air tanker pilot Capt. Tuttle, who would be the real expert on tanker bases, says 15 minutes quicker can make a huge difference when fighting fires.

Apparently West Yellowstone no longer has enough importance to rate protection from Forest Service air tankers. We have been sold out!

Tommy Roche

West Yellowstone