A day in the life of Aviation Firefighters

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KVHP) - Imagine having a mere 90 seconds to put out a fire on an airplane before it reaches the passengers trapped inside. Aviation firefighting is an extremely dangerous and high pressure job and the fire department at Chennault International Airport is prepared for anything.

Even if they're only practicing a drill, it's still taken seriously by Chief Joshua Arnold and the firefighters at Chennault all the same.

First, the firefighters use turrets on their truck to knock down the fire.

"The big part of aviation firefighting is the turrets on the trucks we're looking for rapid knockdown of the fire to create an egress pattern for those coming out of the aircraft and that's accomplished with the turrets on the trucks," said Chief Arnold.

And it's not water that's shooting out of the turrets, it's a three percent a-triple-f foam, and it's essential for this line of work.

"Water alone wont get the job done on aircraft fires, so we need to use the foam to coat the fuel. It provides a cover over the fuel, separates the oxygen, and it cools whatever its in contact with," said Chief Arnold.

Aviation firefighters also deal with large amounts of jet fuel--up to 80-thousand gallons at a time. Chief Arnold says, the more fuel an aircraft can hold, the bigger the explosion will be. Firefighters wear proximity suits to withstand the intense heat and direct explosions while approaching and entering the aircraft.

The firefighters will use saws to cut into the plane to get passengers out. They also use something called a snozzle--it allows the crew to apply agent to the inside on the plane.

Serious equipment is necessary in these emergencies. "If it were to catch fire and there were passengers inside you have 90 seconds before the fire will burn through the skin of the aircraft so we have to be there ready to get them out get agent on the fire in order to stop that," said Arnold.

Captain Jonathan Monceaux says although there are very few serious calls...they are prepared. "You go on shift at 7 in the morning, you check your trucks, and you train 4 to 5 hours a day. We drill two or three times a week. Training never stops," said Monceaux.

Mainly aviation firefighters deal with standby situations and cases of hot brakes--this gives them the opportunity to train and drill extensively.

It's extremely intense, but the love for the field and aviation keeps the firefighters going.

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