CHO Fire Crews Get Real-world Training on Runway Accidents

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

April 8, 2014

Airplane incidents at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport are few and far between, but crews need to be prepared if something happens on the runway.

Fire crews at the airport are getting valuable experience during a week-long training on runway incidents.

"What's nice about this is it really gives you real-life scenario," said Bill Pahuta, CHO's deputy executive director. "This is about as real as we can get."

The Virginia Department of Fire Programs has supplied a mock airplane and tarmac that can be set on fire for crews to knock down.

"We also do a lot of scenario-based training, based upon incidents not necessarily associated at the airport here but other airports someplace where incidents have occurred," airport fire instructor Sgt. Ross Holtzman said.

On Tuesday, crews battled a blaze that represented a fuel fire on a runway.

"Aviation fuel burns very hot, somewhere around the area of 2,000 degrees, which is why we wear silver gear to help reflect heat away from the firefighters themselves," Holtzman said.

Otherwise, it was business as usual at the airport. CHO has a designated training area far from the runways, so incoming and outgoing flights were not affected.

"You can never have enough training," Holtzman said. "It's always nice to be proficient with everything that you do, and that goes for training as well."

Crews from Charlottesville and Albemarle County have also taken part in the training this week. While not the primary agencies to respond to an airport emergency, they need to know how to assist properly should something happen at CHO.

"In an aircraft, time is of the essence," Pahuta said. "If we have a fire around an aircraft, passengers only have 90 to 120 seconds to get out."

This type of training happens twice a year, but this fall, the airport will be taking part in a mass casualty drill. The drill happens every few years and includes actors to play victims to give a real-world scenario.

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