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Firefighters at Grand Canyon National Park Airport keep training sharp

Firefighters at Grand Canyon National Park Airport keep training sharp

June 18, 2019

PHOENIX – Firefighters need regular training to be ready for emergencies, and that goes for the seven firefighters assigned to the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Grand Canyon National Park Airport in Tusayan.

Recently, ADOT’s firefighters traveled to the San Bernardino Regional Emergency Training Center, where trainees benefit from life-size models that simulate hazards ranging from a plane with overheated brakes to a fire in the passenger cabin.

“This type of training keeps our firefighters at the ready,” said Matt Smith, manager of the Grand Canyon Airport. “In the event of a crash or other emergency, lives are on the line and every second counts.”

Serving more than 336,000 passengers in 2017, the last year for which figures are available, Grand Canyon National Park Airport serves as a local hub for tourists wishing to experience the park via air tours. The airport hosts six air-tour companies that fly visitors over the canyon, hosts a skydiving company and sees daily commercial flights from airlines based in the Las Vegas region.

ADOT’s firefighters, who live in housing at the facility, respond to an average of 60 calls per year. The airport is the state’s fourth-busiest in terms of passengers served.

To make sure its firefighters are ready for those calls, ADOT has sent them to training within Arizona and to New Mexico, Utah and, now, California.

Even during exercises, the firefighters must take great care. While fires on the aircraft models are controlled by computer, fires can break out on their own. This adds a sense of realism to the training exercise, and trainees must use caution and safety practices as they would in a real emergency.

During the training, the firefighters’ vital signs are measured throughout the day to make sure everyone is fit and healthy.

“We pursue excellence in everything we do, especially critical firefighting skills,” said Smith, the airport manager. “There is no substitute for the experience gained from live-action training.”

The Grand Canyon Airport has three fire rescue vehicles, including a truck with a Schnozzle, a piece of equipment that can puncture an aircraft fuselage and spray 1,500 gallons of fire-suppressing foam or 500 pounds of dry chemical extinguishing powder.

For more information on Grand Canyon National Park Airport, please visit azdot.gov/GrandCanyonAirport.