“This is a simulator that comes in from the University of Missouri-St. Louis,” says Mike Dean, training officer for St. Louis Lambert International Airport Fire Department. “It’s all propane driven and there is live fire and there’s smoke.”
The live fire and smoke simulation is part of a yearly drill required by the FAA.
An airplane fire has the potential for more injuries and loss of life due to a bigger number of people in a smaller space. These firefighters have to consider that, the deadly risk of fighting a fuel fire.
“Hypothetically, if you go to a structure fire in the city it has an address and the building is there,” says Dean. “If we have an aircraft on fire, we don’t know what it’s going to look like because it’s coming out of the sky.”
Airport firefighters are required to train once a year on disaster plans.
“We’re an aggressive firefighting force at the airport, just like the City of St. Louis (fire department). If there’s potentially an incident where there’s a plane on the ground and it’s crashed, we go in and we save lives,” says Keith Williams, an 18-year firefighting veteran.
“Firefighters don’t get any days off,” says Dean. “We work 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and we train every day. By the FAA requirements we’re required to do this every September. And because this simulator has to travel around, we have to fit it into the schedule and sometimes that day ends up on September 11.”