Central Wisconsin Airport hosts live-fire training on its runway

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 6:22 PM CDT
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MOSINEE, Wis. (WSAW) - Emergency staff from Central Wisconsin Airport, along with surrounding fire and emergency response crews, trained on how to put out an active plane fire on the runway on Wednesday.

A simulated 911 call was made to area departments, sending helicopters, fire trucks, and ambulances responding from their home bases, seizing the moment to practice on a primary runway during construction. Volunteers also role-played as injured passengers.

CWA Director Brian Grefe said when a fire starts on a plane, seconds matter.

“In as little as three minutes in a hot fire it can burn through the skin of a fuselage, that’s why during every aircraft operation we have aircraft rescue and firefighting personnel on staff to respond immediately if something were to happen,” said Grefe.

According to the FAA, in-flight fires can be caused by numerous materials including failed wiring and electrical components on the plane, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, and high-temperature bleed air leaks caused by failed pneumatic lines.

Most CWA staff are airport rescue and firefighter certified according to Grefe.

“As rare as these are, all of our airport staff here at CWA stay competent on their training,” said Louis Kurtz, owner of ARFF Specialists.

The FAA regulates this type of training is done every three years. The staff trains with a simulator or tabletop exercises every year to stay sharp on their procedures.

“Went absolutely perfect today,” said Kurtz.

“The groups worked really well together,” Grefe added.

While crews were briefed to take it a bit more slowly than they would if it was an actual emergency while on the way to the airport for safety reasons, Grefe said crews were on the scene very quickly.

“We weren’t timing it and we specifically briefed for safety reasons we are going to go slower than an actual real-world situation but it was probably 60 seconds,” said Grefe.

Although extremely rare, airplane fires can and have happened. If you are on a flight and notice a small fire inside the aircraft, the FAA regulates that crews know how to put them out, and all aircraft are required to be equipped with fire extinguishers.