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An aviation emergency can happen fast with a high potential for mass casualty, so that’s why airports need the best of the best — a special category of highly skilled firefighters who specialize in Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting, known as ARFF. These professionals typically come from the military and can handle the response, hazard mitigation, evacuation and possible rescue of passengers and crew of an aircraft involved in an emergency.
In this LoCO Video Report we take you to the Arcata/Eureka Airport to find out more about our local ARFF team, the advanced equipment they use, and the status of a new ARFF operations building.
Humboldt’s aviation program coordinator, Emily Jacobs says, “Essentially the airport shuts down without one of these gentlemen here making sure our emergency services are covered.”
And to top it off, Humboldt’s ARFF team also does all the aviation fueling, safety, security, navigation, the runway lighting, and facility and hangar maintenance. Plus there’s only six of them and they maintain all six of the county’s airports, not just ACV. Their official title is airport service worker — although the name doesn’t do them justice.
Jacobs adds, it’s an immense amount of responsibility.
“They’re also required to staff the ACV 20 hours a day. Flights that are late, they’re here longer, often all night long. They have to be here ready to respond to any spot on the airport within minutes if anything should happen.”
And if anything does happen, the ACV is equipped an Oshkosh Striker 1500. Which is a million dollar advanced ARFF vehicle.
“The truck carries 1,500 gallons of water, 210 gallons of AFFF, which is foam - so you have the ability to put water but - more than likely in the aviation community you’re going to have fuels, oils, hydraulic fluid - you’ll use foam also,” said airport service worker supervisor Martin Stockton. “So what it does is create a blanket that removes the oxygen and starves out the fire. It also has 500 pounds of dry chemical that you can use if needed.”
Plus it’s got a caterpillar C16 engine, can hit 50 miles per hour in less than 25 seconds, has an infrared camera, and it can be safely operated by one person.
But this thing is so massive, it can’t even fit in ACV’s current fire facility. So with that being an issue, along with the airport’s most important emergency personnel working out of the old, outdated building, that’s also far from the airfield, a new fire facility is a high priority for Humboldt’s Aviation Division.
The project has been completely designed and was estimated to cost $5.3 million, but the two bids that came in are over that amount. One from local company Danco at $5.9 million, and the other from Hal Hays out of Riverside for a whopping $8.2 million.
Public Works is now reviewing the bids and then they’ll be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for a final review. If all goes as planned, the FAA will award funding for the project.
You can find detailed blueprints on the proposed facility here.