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Minot firefighters practiced knocking down flames and entering the cabin of an aircraft during live fire training in late August.
Members of the Minot Fire Department train once a month on topics related to operations at the Minot International Airport, including in late August when they trained with live fire on an aircraft simulator.
Capt. Devin Walter, the training captain for the department, said the monthly training sessions cover different scenarios related to the airport, with one session each year dedicated to using an aircraft simulator that allows firefighters to train with live fire on a variety of procedures.
“This year, we were simulating a fuel fire around the fuselage of an aircraft, including making entry and rescuing anyone who can’t self-rescue,” Walter said. “For some of our younger firefighters, this is the first time they’ve seen the simulator and been presented with this much live fire. This is the real deal.”
The firefighters practiced knocking down flames and smoke surrounding the simulator as well as on the ground near the aircraft.
“This training involves a lot of safety protocols, and we stress how different it is fighting an aircraft fire vs. a structure fire,” Walter said. “Jet fuel burns much differently than a regular structure fire, and so we focus on different tactics directly related to what we might encounter in the event of an aircraft fire.”
The airport-specific training is done for good reason. Every firefighter in the Minot Fire Department must maintain certification in aircraft rescue and firefighting tactics and procedures.
Fire Station 3 is located on the west edge of the airport property, and its firefighters and equipment serve the airport as well as the community. Because any firefighter in the Minot department could work at Station 3, they all must be ARFF certified.
Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, there must be at least one firefighter and one working ARRF truck at Minot’s Station 3 at all times; 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“If, for some reason, we had to pull that ARFF-designated firefighter from Station 3 or if both of our trucks there became inoperable, the airfield would have to shut down until we could provide proper protection,” said Walter.
That means there could be no flights – personal or commercial – into or out of Minot International Airport until at least one firefighter and one working truck could be brought to Station 3.
Walter said the Fire Department has an agreement with Minot Air Force Base, which could supply a truck if necessary. But until that truck could be brought to Station 3, the airport would remain closed.
“Obviously, that’s not a situation we ever want to be in, and we don’t ever envision such a scenario happening,” Walter said. “It’s our duty to provide protection for the airport and everyone working and utilizing the facility. This training helps us accomplish that mission.”
The only incident in recent years that resulted in the airfield being closed to flights was in February 1994 when a twin-engine plane carrying three Indian Health Service doctors crashed onto airport property while trying to land in a snowstorm. The pilot and all three doctors were killed in the crash.