Fire crews train at the airport for the day everyone hopes never comes

Published: Oct. 15, 2019 at 6:49 PM PDT
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Flames, flashing lights on emergency vehicles at the south end of Reno/Tahoe International Airport.

A frightening sight. Relax, it's training for a day everyone hopes never comes.

It's meant to look and sound real. And with flames billowing from ta mockup of an aircraft fuselage it comes close.

With this training device firemen can work through a number of different accident scenarios, a crash with collapsed wings spilling fuel on the runway, a refueling accident, an engine fire. All quite possible.

This kind of training is, in fact, an annual federal requirement. What's new is that it's happening here. Rather than send crews elsewhere to get this training, this special fuselage with gas fed burners has been brought here so crews can train on site.

"If we have to send our crews out obviously that puts us down people at the airport," says airport spokesman Brian Kulpin, "but when we bring it here we can bring the whole community."

In a real emergency, the airport's fire department would respond, but the call would go out to other agencies.

"These planes carry hundreds of people," says airport fireman Mike Earle "So, if we do have an accident it's going to be imperative that we have all of our neighboring agencies here to help us."

And that's why Reno firefighters were training alongside airport crews. Their typical calls are medical emergencies, house, car accidents and wildfires. The challenge presented by say an accident involving a fully loaded 737 would be on a whole different scale. But Earle says the basic procedures would be familiar.

"We're going to have a lot more people involved but the way things are done is going to be pretty similar in that regard."

Coordination between the different agencies would be crucial in a real emergency. That's another reason why holding the training here, involving everyone on site could make a big difference should that day ever come.

The training will continue through the week.