Fire Hall Visit

Last night our flying club had one of our membership meetings at the airport fire hall. Before the meeting, the commander gave us a tour of the facilities.

The fire hall is located right in the middle of the field, in between the three runways, and it’s only been there for a few years. Before that, it was tucked off to one side, but that didn’t give them the required response time to fires on the other side of the field, so they relocated. I have to wonder about putting them in the middle, in light of incidents like the Souix City crash where a burning jet basically splashed itself all over the infield of an airport. I think it would really have a negative effect on their ability to respond if their firehall was involved in the fire. Also, everything else on the infield has to be frangible so that it will break off if hit by an aircraft, and here’s this large concrete block building right smack dab in the middle. It makes you wonder.

The fire trucks were very impressive, since they’re designed to be self-contained with enough dry chemical, water and foam to fight a fire of a burning MD-80. There are 5 people on duty at any given time, and four trucks, so their modus operendi is to “knock down” the fire from inside of the trucks and then get out to rescue the people and deal with any small flare ups. The commander drives a small command and control truck with many radios and which also has “Jaws of Life” pneumatic pryers and cutters, and an infared imager turret on top. There is a “rapid response” vehicle which looks like your ordinary city fire truck except it has a foam and water turret on the top, and a halon line, and it actually goes out to calls off the airfield. And then there are two HUGE Oshkosh trucks with 15,000 gallons of water, an equivalent amount of dry chemical, and enough foam to mix with about ten times that much water. These Oshkosh trucks have a turret on top that sprays foam or dry chemical, and another turret on the front bumper. They practice maneuvering the trucks around so that between the two of them they can “knock down” an MD-80 sized fire with dry chemical, and then spraying foam on top of the dry chemical to keep the fuel vapours from coming up and re-igniting.

We didn’t get to tour it, but just outside of the airport is a state of the art fire and police training facility that was built as a joint venture between the FAA, the city and the state. That’s where they, and fire fighters from airports and municipalities around the state learn to fight airplane fires as well as house and structure fires.

While we were in the garage looking at all this equipment, a hummingbird came and tried to feed from one of the truck’s turrets. Poor thing – I’ve never seen a hummingbird this late in the year before, and certainly never out at night. I hope it finds some food soon.