The meeting was the first for our new club President, Bob McManus, who also happens to own the Jabiru parked next to my Cherokee 235 in our large group hangar. Bob really got his tenure off to a roaring start by arranging the firehouse meeting, which ended up being extremely productive for both the pilots and firefighters.
The presenter at Monday’s meeting was Engineer Linn Burch. He is a line firefighter/paramedic, with the rank of Engineer, which means he is an apparatus operator. He is coordinating training for the City of Eugene's Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) team.
The ARFF-certified firefighters who crew the station consistently earn A+ ratings in their FAA evaluations, and they can tell you precisely where system shutoffs are on each commercial airplane that services KEUG. But they pointed out there was “very little” specific training aimed at GA airplanes. Two such specifics discussed were the ballistic rockets used not only on Cirrus airplanes but also many ultralights and Light Sport models, and also best practices for accessing a tightly-cowled composite experimental engine compartment that is on fire.
District Chief Craig Shelby said this about the department's interest in learning about GA airplanes: “Speaking specifically to GA knowledge with ARFF Teams, I would have to say the primary training is directed towards commercial aircraft, since ARFF is required for the airlines/airport to stay in business. We recognize GA is often the majority of traffic at an airport, so it is everyone’s best interest to having a better working knowledge of GA so we can serve all of our customers. It is Linn Birch's passion for training, and his desire to make it interesting (and based on questions he has received from team members) that has promoted our efforts to include GA aircraft information in our monthly training. For resource information, Linn is a member of the ARFF Working Group. (www.arffwg.org) They have a publication, and work cooperatively with the American Association of Airport Executives. He uses this resource to network with other trainers, and to share information.”Also discussed was the possibility of notifying the fire station when an experimental airplane was about to make its first flight, or even light off a new engine for the first time. Since many builders call the tower before a first test flight, the firefighters said a call from ATC to their station via a direct line would be easy to coordinate.
When asked about being on hand at a member's hangar when starting a fresh engine, one firefighter said their crew were “like sponges” as they learned new ways to serve the airport community, and that seemed like an easy thing to coordinate.
Lots of discussion was spent talking about when to declare an emergency. The fire guys and an ATC controller in the audience agreed that we should “declare early” so emergency crews can be as prepared as possible. One point made by former United Captain and EAA 1457 member Phil Groshong drew muted chuckles from the crowd when he said the "worst time to declare emergency is after you crash." Makes sense to me.
After the official meeting, it was on to the tour, which was quite cool, if you love gigantic fire trucks (who doesn't?). We saw how the crews live, eat, relax and work out in the on-site gym, but the real star of the show was the 1991 Oshkosh T-1500 truck at center stage in the main equipment bay of the station.
Painted in fantastic day-glow yellow, this particular Oshkosh fire truck carries 1,585 gallons of water, 205 gallons of AFFF foam and 700 pounds of “purple-k” dry chemical. Any of this can be dispensed RAPIDLY through a roof turret rated at 375-750 gallons per minute or a bumper turret that delivers 300 gpm.
This however is not the biggest, baddest truck in the Station 12 fleet. In the shop on the day of our tour is their 2004 Oshkosh Striker, which is larger and has more capacity than the T-1500 we saw.
After taking turns sitting in the “flight deck” of the T-1500 enjoying a panel that has enough switches and steam gauges to make any aviator smile, we toured the “Disaster Trailer” which is a Wells Cargo rig stocked with 100 backboards, patient movers (rugged large-wheel gurneys), medical triage boxes, IVs and Oxygen.
Overall, this session brought the two communities of the airport together. We EAA members learned about how the station operates while the fire crews got to ask specific questions about the airplanes we fly. Many in attendance predicted that this new collaboration will continue and grow as we aim to help the firefighters who help us when needed.