Albemarle Fire Crews Get Aircraft Fire Training at CHO - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Albemarle Fire Crews Get Aircraft Fire Training at CHO

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Plane fire drill at CHO Plane fire drill at CHO

Albemarle County firefighters are rushing to battle a raging fire just off the runway at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (CHO) – but it’s all just a drill to prepare the fire crews near the airport for a real disaster with a burning plane.

The airport's 10 firefighters are training all week side-by-side with about 25 firefighters from around the county. A major aircraft fire hasn't happened there but these crews are ready.

Albemarle County firefighters tested their gear to go into battle with a simulated tarmac blaze Tuesday. Firefighter Josh Loving's attack team inched forward slowly, sweeping water back and forth over jet fuel burning at 2,000 degrees to reach a plane in peril.

“You have to think about the elevation, the landscape of the land depending on where the fuel's going to run,” Loving said.

That different approach from fighting a fire out in the community is why the crews train at CHO.

“We try to make it as real as possible to keep our skills up and everybody's familiar with the airport, all our equipment, and how to fight aircraft fires,” said Bill Pahuta, deputy director of CHO.

Albemarle firefighters work the line alongside the airport's crews.

“It's really important to train with those who support you,” said airport fire instructor Sgt. Ross Holtzman.

The state's plane simulator fires up for different scenarios on the airfield. Firefighters can also train inside a burning fuselage.

“It's really critical for ventilation. You must open every possible entry of an aircraft to let the heat and gas out to increase your chance of survivability,” Holtzman said.

The coordinated training is preparing crews to work together if a real disaster happens on the runway.

“If we were to have an emergency here, we would be more prepared, know what to expect and know the tactics they're going to use and how we could best help them,” Loving said.

The airport's fire crews are required to complete this training annually, but CHO tries to bring the simulator to its training field twice a year to involve firefighters from the surrounding community.

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