Plane simulation preps NC firefighters for fire, rescue
By Richard Gould
The Hickory Daily Record
HICKORY, N.C. — Two teams of three firefighters walked toward 30-foot-tall walls of billowing flames beside the small commuter plane, blasting water from their fire hoses. A third team waited for them to battle the flames back far enough to allow them to board the plane and get the passengers to safety.
The victims rescued from the plane were mannequins. The flames shot out of gas pipes laid out on the ground and simulated fuel spills.
The plane is a training tool. It has no engines and is transported on a 45-foot trailer to various locations so firefighters can learn the skills needed if a real plane crashes and causes a real emergency.
"This is all part of our annual burn," said Deputy Fire Chief George Byers.
The Hickory Fire Department has a station at the Hickory Regional Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration requires firefighters stationed at the airport to undergo this type of training exercise annually, Byers said.
Those training exercises have traditionally been held in Charlotte.
Saturday's training scenario was the first live burn to be held at the Hickory airport, Byers said.
The instruction was conducted by retired firefighter Henry Parham.
"We're saving about $1,000 by having him come up here and do the class," Byers said.
He added that, because the training is held at the airport, firefighters can use their own equipment and trucks. The scenario can also be tailored to simulate the types of disasters more likely to happen in a smaller airport.
HFD's Engine Four is stationed at the airport. FAA guidelines require the department to keep it there at all times. On Saturday, firefighters got a chance to use it in their live burn and practice battling blazes on their own turf.
Catawba Valley Community College sponsored the training scenario.
"Our goal is to make sure none of our guys have to go anywhere for training — we want to do it all right here," said Tim Chewning, executive director of Public Safety Innovation Center. "It's a tremendous opportunity, and the resources all stay local."
"Our mission is to serve the local community," said Dr. David Streater, associate dean of the School of Public Safety. "Having the scenario here gives our firefighters a kind of home-court advantage."
A total of about 25 people, including the 12 firefighters rotating shifts at the airport fire station and eight new recruits, took part in the training session, Byers said.
Copyright 2009 Hickory Daily Record