A new firefighting vehicle capable of spewing 2,400 gallons of water or foam onto a burning aircraft in a minute is now in operation at Fresno Yosemite International Airport, replacing a 23-year-old truck that has been retired.
The 2016 Rosenbauer Panther, purchased at a cost of about $714,000, is considered a state-of-the-art aircraft rescue firefighting, or ARFF, vehicle, said Vikkie Calderon, a spokeswoman for the airport. The money to buy the new vehicle came mostly from Federal Aviation Administration grants, augmented by some money from Measure C, Fresno County’s half-cent sales tax supplement, Calderon said. It replaces a truck that was built in 1993.
With airlines, general aviation airplanes, cargo aircraft, helicopters and military aircraft, the Fresno airport sees over 100,000 takeoffs and landings every year. “We are required by the FAA to maintain a high level of airport emergency response to address any aircraft incidents that may occur on our airfield,” Calderon said.
Another ARFF vehicle, a 2007 Oshkosh Striker, will remain in service. Both the Panther and Striker rolled to the crash of a small Piper PA 28 airplane on Wednesday at the airport in which the pilot was taken to a hospital.
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It takes some level of practice and skill and routine training to stay proficient.
Fresno Fire Capt. Jonathan Lusk
Fresno Fire Capt. Jonathan Lusk described the new vehicle as having significantly better firefighting performance than the older truck that’s still in service. Both a bumper-mounted water cannon on the nose of the truck and a roof turret atop the cab are capable of spraying 1,200 gallons of water or firefighting foam per minute on a burning aircraft. Each cannon can swivel up, down, left and right, and a firefighter can use dashboard-mounted joysticks to operate both cannons from the safety of the cab.
“It takes some level of practice and skill and routine training to stay proficient” in operating the truck, Lusk said.
The truck’s tanks carry 3,000 gallons of water and 400 gallons of foam. When the two cannons are operating in tandem at full blast, “we can empty our tank in a little over a minute if the fire was big enough,” Lusk said.
The truck also has a manual hose line that firefighters can use to spray water, foam or dry chemicals onto a fire. There’s also a new system on the truck that feeds a hose nozzle with a noncorrosive gas called Halotron for fires in places where water or foam cannot be used, Lusk said, such as an airplane cockpit packed with sensitive electronics.