Lincolnton firefighters are now certified in airport rescue after completing a 40-hour training course last month at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Classes were held through Cleveland Community College and the North Carolina Office of State Fire Marshal.
The N.C. Air National Guard and Charlotte Fire Department aided firefighters in victim rescue and exercises in live fire suppression, according to a department press release.
The certification course offered fire crews instruction in a variety of areas including airport and aircraft familiarization, safety and aircraft hazards, fire and rescue communications, extinguishing agents, rescue tools and equipment, airport firefighting apparatus and emergency planning, the release said.
Chief Mike Lee told the Times-News last week that the city agency is the only fire department in the county qualified for airport rescue along with a few firefighters from Boger City Fire Department.
“Boger City has discussed obtaining further training in this field,” Lee said, “and we are working with them on updating the response plan for aircraft emergencies at and around the airport.”
Lee noted there are dissimilarities between airport fire rescue and other emergency response situations.
“It’s imperative we receive specialized training to understand and prepare to mitigate such unusual and uncommon incidents,” he said.
While fire officials pointed out that the department is highly trained in everyday calls such as structure fires, medical calls, motor vehicle accidents and hazardous materials leaks, fire crews are far from being comfortable handling other low frequency incidents.
“The incidents we don’t experience often are more dangerous because we lack experience,” he said. “Hopefully training will help overcome inexperience.”
In 2009, the Lincolnton/Lincoln County Airport Authority transferred rights to their airport rescue firefighting apparatus to Lincolnton Fire Department after airport officials realized none of their personnel maintained proper training or certification in firefighting, Lee said.
Using nearly 500 pounds of an extinguishing agent known as Purple K, the apparatus is capable of extinguishing a 3,000 square-foot area of flammable liquid fire in only a minute-and-a-half. Fire officials said the apparatus additionally holds 100 gallons of a foam and water mixture, which is applied to the aircraft once all burning liquid has been quenched in order to prevent vapors from reigniting.
“The largest threat with aircraft emergencies is the amount of flammable fuels that may be carried on the aircraft,” Lee said.
Lincolnton Fire Department is additionally certified in Fire Instructor, Fire Officer, Firefighter Level II, Emergency Medical Technician, Hazardous Materials-Operations Level and Technical Rescuer with specialized certifications in confined space rescue, rope rescue and vehicle/machinery rescue.