Burning aircraft
Firefighters from Logan and North Logan work to extinguish a burning aircraft as part of a training exercise at a facility in Helena, Mont., on Thursday. (Photo courtesy Logan Fire Department)

A worst-case scenario is highly unlikely, but if it happened at the Logan-Cache Airport, local firefighters would only have one chance at getting it right.

So training is essential.

Seven firefighters from Logan and three from North Logan traveled to Helena, Mont., on Thursday for a three-day course in how to properly suppress aircraft fires.

The training wasn't a weekend getaway - it's required by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Logan-Cache Airport footed the $10,000 bill, according to Assistant Fire Chief Brady Hansen.

"As part of the FAA certification, the fire department has to be prepared to handle a significant event at the airport," said Hansen. "We go through a significant amount of training and become certified in several types of fires."

The team trained on a full-scale replica of a passenger jet, wired with propane gas lines that light up the fuselage, cockpit, wing or engine all at the flip of a switch.

The simulator is built of high-grade steel to withstand repetitive burns and extreme temperatures and is so sophisticated, it can sense if firefighters are using too much or too little water to douse the flames.

"This is a highly specialized operation," said Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Peterson, explaining that seconds can mean the difference between saving lives and losing them. "We have to give occupants an exit path and we do that by laying down foam blankets in the cabin area of the aircraft."

The team practiced using real foam on the burning plane - something that's prohibitively expensive here at home and also rehearsed one of the most dangerous scenarios involving an aircraft mishap - a spill fire, in which aircraft fuel leaks out of a wing and onto the tarmac.

Firefighters were taught the proper order to combat different types of aircraft fires. Engine fires and cockpit fires require very different attack methods, explained Hansen.

"It makes sense the FAA would make us do this every year," said Peterson. "There's a very precise way in which we have to do things or we run the risk of things getting out of control."

Salt Lake City International Airport also provides aircraft fire training. However training costs there were much higher than in Montana, Hansen said.

Housed at the Logan-Cache Airport is large firefighting apparatus monikered "Crash 70." The vehicle is capable of spraying 3,000 gallons of foam anywhere on the airport surface. Fire crews train on the machine using water.

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