ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- If one of the big cargo planes that flies out of Robins goes down, firefighters could have a blaze to put out unlike any they have ever seen.
That’s why firefighters from Robins Air Force Base and the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department were training together Wednesday to practice extinguishing a fire from a large aircraft. The training facility at Robins features an iron mock-up of a C-17, which carries up to 28,000 gallons of fuel.
Macon-Bibb firefighters are required to get the training once a year due to the potential for a crash at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, and the Robins facility is the only place they can train for an aviation crash without traveling.
“With us having the airport, this is a very good exercise for us to be able to come out here and participate in,” said Lt. Joe Herndon, Macon-Bibb’s training instructor.
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Eleven Macon-Bibb firefighters took the training Wednesday plus five observers. About 20 Robins firefighters participated.
The Robins facility has a system of propane tubes with igniters that blast fire in various locations around the aircraft, simulating different types of fires. Because the fire is being constantly fueled, the firefighters don’t actually put it out. An operator in a tower watches how the water is being sprayed and turns off the fuel to simulate the blaze being put out.
The firefighters practice various scenarios, ranging from a full plane fire to burning fuel on the ground and an engine fire.
The training also is intended for the two departments to learn to work together because they may well end up responding to an aircraft crash together. That happened less than two years ago when a private plane crashed just north of the base, killing two people.
“It gives us an opportunity to work together and get to know each other,” said Eric Danforth, assistant chief of operations in the Robins fire department. “They can see how we operate, and we can see how they operate.”
At one time, he said, real aircraft fuel was spilled around the mock plane to create a blaze. The propane system was put in for environmental and safety reasons.
Robins firefighters take the training twice a year, although only once a year is required.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.