ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – As New Mexico endures one of its worst-ever wildfire seasons, state leaders are looking for ways to get a jump on future fires. State and federal leaders announced funding to upgrade the air-tanker infrastructure at Kirtland Air Force Base.

“This partnership is going to do a great deal for stopping the small fires before they get big and helping us control where those big fires can burn and hopefully save more houses in the future,” said 10 Tanker CEO John Gould.

The repaving project would make it the only place in central or northern New Mexico where so-called “very large tankers” or V-Lats could land and fill up on retardant. These aircraft hold three times the capacity of the smaller tankers that can land there now.

Officials say that added volume, along with the central location could be a game-changer for New Mexico and neighboring states. “One of the primary things is the speed at which you can get on a fire, catch it when it’s still small when fire behavior is extreme that time is everything, and this is time and its volume,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich.

Heinrich helped secure more than $15 million from the air force budget for the project. It is expected to be completed by fall of 2023.