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Biz Buzz: Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport free event mixes popular things

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is offering a free event with aircraft firefighting equipment and on-site food.

The event is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 14 at the Department of Natural Resources Air Tanker Base, which is a half mile east of the airport’s entrance on Highway 210, just outside of Brainerd.

Consider it an early Father’s Day outing. The airport is celebrating that iconic guy dressed in blue jeans, with a hat that makes one think of a state trooper and often has shovel in hand to fight forest fires. It’s Smokey Bear’s 70th birthday party and the DNR Air Tanker Base Open House.

There will be equipment displays, helicopter water drops, law enforcement planes, among other offerings.

The Civil Air Patrol will be sponsoring food and beverages at the event. A birthday cake is on the docket.

Participating agencies include North Memorial Air Care, Salvation Army disaster truck, Brainerd Fire Department, Brainerd Police Department, Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and Experimental Aircraft.

Marcel Kobberdahl, Civil Air Patrol, said events like this helps the CAP help fund access to a flight academy where students may be involved in a glider or power aircraft.

The CAP is involved in search and rescue, surveillance for the Coast Guard in drug smuggling where criminals pull a submersible contraband, and works with Homeland Security. The organization also offers leadership opportunities for young people who have been able to take their aviation interest to greater career heights. The CAP students have gone one to the Air Force Academy and West Point.

Kobberdahl said the CAP unit here has 75 members, which may be described as professionally trained volunteers. The CAP has about 23 airplanes in the state.

Another participant in the Smokey Bear birthday bash, North Memorial Aircare, has a pilot, medic and nurse staffed at the Brainerd airport 24 hours a day. North Memorial moved into a hanger at the Brainerd airport in 2001 and bases two helicopters there. Chief pilot Ryan Sarvie said this is one of North Memorial’s busiest bases out of the five, with an average of two runs a day. On Memorial Day, Sarvie flew five runs on the day shift alone. With rapid refueling, which is accomplished in a few minutes, the helicopter’s range is really unlimited but typically it can fly 200 nautical miles on a load of fuel at speeds ranging from 160 mph to 220 mph, with a good tail wind.

The Brainerd base is one of two of North Memorial’s maintenances bases. The Minnesota State Patrol has a fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter at the airport.

At the tanker base, there is room for heavy air tankers, smaller crop duster-type aircraft to fight fires and CL-215 firefighting flying boat amphibious aircraft. They’ve had Army National Guard aircraft tankers as well and basically a full house of those type of aircraft to fight the wildfire that swept through the Barrows area.

Interestingly, they have a list of which lakes have invasive species and try to avoid those when using aircraft that scoop water to fight fires. If they do scoop from infested lakes, even more care goes into inspections and power washes of the aircraft.

“We’ve been very proactive on invasive species,” said Keith Riedel, Minnesota DNR Airtanker Base manager in Brainerd.

All those tidbits and more will be available to those who check out the Smokey Bear birthday event and tanker base open house on June 14. And Smokey Bear is expected in person.

For more details, go to the website at

Destiny Cruises’ new North Star yacht was expected to arrive in Brainerd Friday morning and launch on Gull Lake Monday.

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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