Bringing in the "big guns"


training with ARFF November 2013We had a decent tour yesterday.

Our morning was composed of some scheduled training with the ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting) crew at our Regional Airport.

It was as cold as a coal miners ….. errrrrr ….. as a well diggers …. ummm as a witches …. well, let's just say it was COLD but you'll never hear us complain about an opportunity to train.

It was actually a good class. Engine / Medic #3 joined us and they have several younger members who haven't had the exposure to ARFF that they should. I think they learned a lot and it was a good refresher for us older Jakes.

If you work around an airport, you'll know the challenges they pose. For us, it's a long story and very frustrating.

In my experiences, planes rarely crash on airport property and that can work out to be good or bad. Personally, I'd rather they crash off site so I can get to it. Despite being in a big red fire truck, it takes an act of congress for us to get out onto airport property.

AR 2What has been even more difficult is getting one of the ARFF trucks (the "big guns") OFF airport property. 

For years, we've been an "Index B" airport which means that an aircraft (of certain size) with problems can divert here while we are only required to staff and maintain a single 1,500 gal rig. We've always exceeded that requirement.

Despite having the staffing and equipment, we've also always been told that the equipment can NOT leave the airport property. The reasoning has always been that if the equipment leaves, then the airport MUST be shut down … no incoming or outgoing flights. Really??? BOTH flights will be delayed? LMAO.

Hell, I've run plane crashes within sight of the run way and couldn't get a truck to assist. Beyond plane crashes, think about tractor trailer accidents. There's an interstate highway that runs beside the airport (and through our city) that keeps us more than busy with accidents. How covenant would it be to have one of the "big guns" from ARFF roll out on an overturned tanker?   It's frustrating to say the least. (Click HERE for an example and see the picture below right)

I-581 crash 2013I'm not so sure that we haven't been lied to sometime in the past and the real answers lie hidden within the "politics" surrounding the airport (politics as in MONEY etc).

Years ago, our City hired an outside Chief as their "axe man". He came in and cut, slashed and consolidated everything he could. He burnt a lot of brisges along the way.

He took us to bare bones and although he's now gone, his last effort was fulfilled in 2010 when our members were pulled out of the airport and their staffing went private. (Read Roanoke Regional Privatizes Fire & Rescue Services)

It was a HUGE cluster and overall embarrassment for our Department. It was obvious that the decision wasn't thought through or well planned. The effects of that closing linger within our Department still today. 

The good news is that the compnay that came in, Pro-Tec Fire Services (link) ; has done a decent job. To begin with, they hired several of our guys who were assigned to the airport and at (or beyond) retirement age. They also brought in several of their own folks who are just as good to work with.

Their current Chief, Warren Peters; has been great to work with. He is the one behind inviting us out for training and has also assured me that whenever I (we) need one of his vehicles, all I (we) have to do is call for it. 

So on to our training. You've heard a lot from me (and here lately about Kidde.

Most recently, Rhett and I went to Nashville to attend the unveiling of their "Be a Safety Hero" (link) program and to attend the 2013 CMA's (READ my related post "WHY"… click HERE). We've told you how Kidde is so much more than a smoke alarm company and our training yesterday is a prime example.

ARFF simulator by KiddeChief Peters had the Virginia Department of Fire Programs (link) bring in their ARFF simulators for our training. Guess who makes the simulators (pictured left)???

Yea…. click the picture to enlarge it and you'll see Kidde's name on the front!

Like all of their products, the Kidde Fire Training ARFF simulator is AWESOME!

This simulator offers the option to run various scenarios such as engine fires, APU fires and wheel, tire and/or brake fires.

We can also practice interior firefighting within the aircraft. It has all the realistic doors, compartments, "hook ups" and controls that we'd need to look for and utilize in real life situations as well.

propane simulators by KiddeI guess it falls under the category as a "Class C" simulator in that it's propane fueled.

Now don't shrug your shoulders because fighting fire in an aircraft is a LOT different than fighting fire in a building.

To begin with, fighting fire in an airplane is basically like being inside a big tube. There are no corners or places for the heat and steam to go.

It's also a metal (aluminum) cylinder full of plastics so it holds heat pretty well.

Have you ever wondered why we've always been taught to NOT put water or any extinguishing agents on the top of a burning plane? It's so the fire can / will self vent. A fire of any size should vent itself in less than 90 seconds. If you've cooled the top (roof) then it will take longer and all the heat / products of combustion will remain inside the cabin. 

ARFF trainingThey also have a large mat that simulates fuel spills / fires.

I've gotta tell ya that I sure was glad when they fired this baby up (I was about to freeze…LOL)

(Again I'll remind you to click on the photos to view larger images)

The mat offers several options for scenarios as well …. hand lines vs. ARFF trucks (the "Big Guns") etc.

It was good that some of our younger members got to experience as much as they did.

The instructors (and ARFF crew) were very knowledgeable and helpful as our members asked some very good questions.

Of course our involvement / tactics etc will vary depending on where the plane (crash) is (on or off airport property) but it was still a productive and educational class.

advancing a line at ARFF trainingMy interest was around the cockpit door and it's various levels of security post-9/11.

If the plane is in-tact and on airport property, we're still the ones who will make entry (the ARFF crew remains inside their vehicles as the operators).

Have you ever thought about having to get through that door to get to (rescue) the pilots and crew?

I've run a couple plane crashes in my career and fortunately none of them were large aircraft (requiring a cockpit door).

I hope I never have to run another one but, with the airport in my first due, I expect one to fall from the sky every day.

Click HERE for a relate article on our latest airplane crash (2010) or HERE for the audio of dispatch etc.

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Stay Safe and in House!

Captain Wines