The odd-looking yellow behemoth sped toward the blaze on the tarmac with its front turret spouting foam. Then the top turret swiveled and targeted the flames. By the time it lumbered close enough to even register the heat, the fire was out, doused by Denton’s newest weapon in its firefighting arsenal, the Airport Rescue and Firefighting Vehicle.
Jet Works Air Center president Trey Bryson traded the apparatus Wednesday morning to Fire Chief Ross Chadwick for a special commemorative firefighter’s helmet at a ceremony at the Denton Airport.
Both men were pleased with the exchange and a crowd applauded.
“It’s every little boy’s dream to own a real fire truck,” Bryson said. “But you don’t want one. You want it in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.”
Jet Works bought the truck months ago and waited until a dozen or so Denton firefighters were fully trained to operate it. The company, which specializes in maintenance, refurbishing, painting and other services for jet planes, is based at the airport.
On Wednesday the city accepted the truck in a formal exchange. Jet Works donated the truck for use at the airport just off Airport Road, and its use centers on extinguishing aircraft fires.
Mayor Mark Burroughs told the group that the municipal airport has grown from being a small airstrip to a first-class facility with a control tower and numerous businesses based there.
“We did it during a really difficult economic time, but we did it anyway,” Burroughs said. “We recognized that it might have taken us years as a city to afford this equipment.”
After the ceremony, Assistant Fire Chief Ken Hedges proudly showed off the truck and the firefighters who were trained to operate it.
The vehicle has a 525-horsepower, 12-cylinder, air-cooled diesel engine, he said.
Two nozzles on the top turret are capable of firing 750 gallons of foam per minute.
Three nozzles on the bottom of the truck help protect it from blazing fuel running underneath.
It’s designed for speed, despite its awkward appearance, and is good for running parallel down a runway with a blazing aircraft.
Three firefighters ride inside, with the driver at the wheel in the center. The two flanking him operate the fire suppression equipment.
It is the only fire apparatus in Denton County with the specialized capability.
Hedges said the Denton Airport was recently named the seventh busiest in Texas, right after Dallas Love Field Airport.
The only time firefighters have to exit the truck is in the event of an interior fire that cannot be reached.
Then a firefighter puts on a shiny silver flame-retardant suit and fetches a device called a Skin Penetrating Application Tool.
The hand-held instrument acts like a drill and opens a hole in the aircraft’s skin to allow access to the fire.
The truck has a 1,000-gallon foam tank and a 250-gallon tank for dry suppressant. A reel hose on the front of the truck dispenses the dry suppressant for specialized needs such as electronics.
The firefighters trained at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which is one of the premier training grounds in the country, Hedges said.
As time goes on, more firefighters will acquire the training. At present, firefighters from Station 3 on McCormick Street or Station 7 near the far south city limits will respond because they are the closest to the airport.
Future plans are to build Station 8 at the airport itself.
The truck is housed in a bay at the city’s new maintenance facility at the south end of the airport.
Inside the truck, firefighters can communicate with fire dispatchers and other apparatus via the regular radio.
A second radio allows them to communicate with the airport tower and planes in flight.
The city will share the truck with other county fire departments in interlocal agreements, just as all the departments now help each other with large fires or other disasters.
“This airport is growing and we’re happy to have it,” Hedges said. “We go on standby every time a plane radios in that it’s in trouble. Recently we were on standby here three times in a week.”
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .