PBCFR shares most critical part of fighting plane fires at the a - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

PBCFR shares most critical part of fighting plane fires at the airport

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After a plane crashed into a suburban Lake Worth home and a plane caught fire on the tarmac at Fort Lauderdale Airport, we're looking at what it takes to fight jet fuel caused fires. 

The most powerful firefighting tool on the runway is what Palm Beach County Firefighters call the 'Dragon.' The massive fire truck is able to spit out firefighting foam and drive at the same time. 

"For the FAA, our first truck has to be on scene of an incident within three minutes on the air field," said Captain Christopher Chiodo, ARFF, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue.

That's an FAA requirement and the clock starts ticking the moment the airport tower call comes into the station.

'The most critical part of the job is actually getting to the call, knowing where the call is, and getting their quick enough that you can do some good," added Captain Chiodo. 

Drivers have to navigate around airport traffic and any debris. The most dangerous part is coming into contact with frantic passengers fleeing from a fiery aircraft. 

"Obviously these are big trucks, a lot of blind spots, so when we’re approaching an aircraft or an incident we’re always looking for the people exiting an aircraft," said Chido.

Once the firefighters locate the fire, the driver can control every nozzle and aim any direction right from inside the 'dragon.' The truck can shoot 1200 gallons of water per minute, a foam, and a dry chemical compound called Purple K, that puts out the hottest of liquid fuel fires.

'The fuel itself doesn’t burn, it’s the vapor that burns so what we do is that we put the fire out and then we cover the fuel with the foam which suppresses the vapor," said Captain Chiodo. 

Training to fight jet fuel caused fire is more intense than most firefighting training. The equipment and gear is completely different. Before fighting a jet fuel caused fire, firefighters put on a reflective suit that helps protect them from extreme heat. 

The trucks already have 3,000 gallons of water on board and 400 gallons of foam which helps crews respond to a disaster anywhere on or around the tarmac. 

Every airport is required to have at least one 'dragon' fire truck. Palm Beach International Airport has two operating 24 hours a day with the ability to add 2 to 3 more. Captain Chiodo says the most common incidents crews respond to are fuel spills.

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