Reporting Michelle Durham
By Michelle Durham
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Firefighters at Engine 78 stand ready at Philadelphia International Airport in the event of an aircraft emergency similar to what happened in San Francisco.
Battalion Chief Patrick Sweeney leads the team.
“We’re Engine 78. It sounds like a singular engine unit, but it’s actually 15 personnel responding in tandem with seven or eight vehicles. We have drivers and turret operators,” said Sweeney.
He says firefighters assigned to Engine 78 must have several years of fire fighting experience first.
“The FAA requires they have initial training and then after that recurrent training once a year, including airport familiarization, aircraft familiarization, tools and equipment, and extinguishing agents,” said Sweeney.
Sweeney says fighting fire on an aircraft is much different than a structure fire, in which you can pop open doors or take out windows.
“The aircraft is still pressurized,” explained Sweeney. Even if a firefighter was strong enough to open the door, the force of it would severely injure or kill the first responder.
Sweeney explains when the call goes out that an aircraft is in trouble, they are given the type of aircraft and the number of people aboard, and then his staff goes into service.
“We would have know what type of aircraft it is and how we depressurize the aircraft from the exterior,” said Sweeney.
There is a valve located near the tail of the aircraft to depressurize the plane. Firefighters are also trained to work in zero visibility conditions and to be aware of hazards as they approach and begin to work on the fire.