By Alexis Macklin
Passengers flying out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will feel a little safer after the Phoenix Fire Department debuted a new heavy-duty fire truck earlier this month.
Firefighters will use the fire truck to respond to different types of accidents that occur on an airport runway, including airplane crashes and fires.
The truck would also help firefighters respond quicker to accidents, Marc Santa Cruz, the driver training officer for the Phoenix Fire Department, said.
“There is a service guideline that requires response vehicles to accelerate from zero to 50 (mph) in 35 seconds,” Santa Cruz said. “This truck can go up to 75 mph. This is our fastest truck.”
Most importantly the new truck can carry up to 4,500 gallons of water and 500 gallons of foam, Santa Cruz said. This is why the new truck was given the name Striker 4500.
“On the runway you do not have access to a water supply,” he said. “There isn’t any fire hydrants on the runway. This is why it is so important to carry water on the truck.
The truck can carry water, foam and a dry chemical to fight fuel fires, Santa Cruz said. The 40-feet-long, 100-thousand-pound truck also has four axels, which allows the truck to drive effectively on different types of terrain, Santa Cruz said.
The fire department rarely has to go out to the runway for an emergency and there has never been a crash at the airport, Fire Captain Robert Hill said. Hill is the manager for emergency preparedness at the Phoenix Fire Department.
“Yesterday we had 3 alerts and that is a lot,” Hill said. “Alerts come in a range such as engine fires, hydraulic failure, a failure to land or smoke detected on the plane. Alerts cover a bit of everything but they aren’t too serious.”
The truck was a scheduled upgrade from their last truck, Santa Cruz said. The newest truck cost close to $1.5 million. The airport paid for the upgrade, not the City of Phoenix.
Chris Rousch, the manager of emergency preparedness for the airport, said the truck would prove to airlines that Phoenix is a reliable airport. He said he hopes that this will help attract larger international airlines to Phoenix.
“The new truck contributes to a plan for expanding the physical and flight size of the airport,” he said. “Major airports like LAX, Chicago O’Hare and JFK all have state of the art equipment like this.”
The firefighter practice once a week, where the response time from the firehouse to the end of the runway is recorded, Roush said. The airport and the firefighters must go through a certification process every three years. They have live practice once a year where the firefighters practice what to do in case of a crash or fire.
“Three major goals of the airport is safety, security and customer service,” Roush said. “This new truck will assist in saving lives and that is what we bought it for.”