Just one day after 13 were injured following a jet engine explosion on a Las Vegas runway, firefighters near Kansas City’s Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport have a new station and equipment meant to combat such a crisis.
Paid for through a federal grant, the airport now includes an aircraft rescue and firefighting station operated by the Kansas City Fire Department, along with two new specialized ARFF trucks. The grand opening for the station was Wednesday.
"It's fast. It's air field access, it provides us … a training center that's linked to the airport,” said KCFD Battalion Chief Matt Mauer.
It’s rare for an airport the size of Wheeler to have such a stout fire and rescue structure within the air field. However, the downtown airport sees more traffic than most airports its size and along with it a wide variety of planes, including those of sports teams.
Before, nearby fire personnel would drive to the airport and be on standby for large planes, just in case of an emergency. Now, fire personnel can watch over departures and landings just feet from the runway, saving precious time.
"It's critical that everything happens fast. Time … minutes and seconds save lives,” said KC Aviation Department Spokesman Joe McBride.
Mauer explained that while such fires are rare, the FAA must like what his firefighters are doing. According to Mauer, his team has had a "perfect record" over the past 11 years.
The new trucks and fire station are worth more than $1.5 million.
According to Mauer, everything he’s read praised the Las Vegas fire team who responded to Tuesday’s runway crisis and said he and his team will be studying the way they handled the emergency.
Josh Helmuth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .