Airport Firefighting Gets Real

Airport Firefighting Gets Real

Fall 2020

| By: Britten, Casey

ATW ARFF Training Center prepares firefighters to take on airport emergencies.  

If you live in the Fox Cities, you’ve probably seen occasional black smoke coming from the direction of the Appleton International Airport (ATW). 

That’s nothing to be alarmed about; it’s a sign of the live training scenarios taking place at the new Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting (ARFF) Center, which welcomed its first students during the summer and fall of 2020. Since training began on June 1, 15 departments from throughout the Midwest have participated in airport firefighting, driver/operator and live fire recertification classes. 

The ARFF facility is a partnership with ATW and is located adjacent to the airport and the FVTC Public Safety Training Center. It provides hands-on training scenarios on a one-of-kind Boeing 777 Specialized Aircraft Fire Trainer with a broken wing and a Cessna Skyhawk training prop. It’s the only ARFF site in the Midwest designed to prepare firefighters for emergency situations of this magnitude involving aircraft.

“The aircraft fire training props are amazing and allow us to create so many different scenarios,” explains ARFF Program Instructor Ben Sokol, adding that any scenario encountered on an airfield can be re-created to produce the most realistic training available. 

“The students like that they can train on every aspect of ARFF,” says Sokol. “With the Cessna Skyhawk and Boeing 777 fire simulators, we can train on everything from small aircraft fires, to fuel spills, engine fires, forcing entry into an aircraft and attacking interior cabin fires.” 

While COVID-19 has slowed the start of training slightly, the training season is finishing strong. “We’re looking forward to our second training season beginning in Spring 2021,” says Sokol.