WINNIPEG – From the moment the crash horn sounds, Brian Gierl has three minutes to get anywhere at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport.
He is a fire captain at the fire hall based at the airport. Being fast when it comes to his job can mean the difference between life or death.
“You are dealing with fuel fires so you have to make a survival atmosphere for people as quickly as possible,” said Gierl. “The quicker you can knock down the fire, the better chance people will survive the crash.”
A team of 16 staff the fire hall. They get called out around 400 times a year.
“About 70 per cent of those calls are medical related calls,” said Gierl. “The rest are a variety of things from air craft related emergencies to hazardous materials related calls. Basically, anything you can dream up we’ve dealt with. A few years ago we had a child birth on board.”
Despite being employed by the airport, the fire crew will work with the city on major calls
When a plane crash landed on Logan Avenue 11 years ago, they were there because of the dangerous nature of dealing with fuel.
The three truck fleet is outfitted with specialized equipment your typical fire engine wouldn’t have. It’s all to keep crews safe.
“If there is a snow storm or you get heavy fog, we can drive on the airport using GPS,” said Gierl. “You just plug in where to go and there is a voice prompt that tells you when to turn. It keeps us on the runways so even in zero visibility, we can get to the scene of a crash or an incident.”
An engine that is five times more powerful than a Honda Civic. It’s so fast it can go from zero to 115 kilometres per hour in 35 seconds flat and fill your bathtub in six seconds.
It even can fight fire underneath the truck.
“Because of the nature of fuel, you never know where it is going to pool or run,” said Gierl. “So there are under truck nozzles as well so if the fire starts to come towards us we can turn the under truck nozzles on and it will put the fire out around us.”
Fighting a fiery crash landing isn’t the only battle – mother goose is also the enemy.
Air cannons are just one tactic used at the airport to keep wildlife away.
“Controlling our vegetation, making sure the grass is kept short, planting certain types of plants that wont attract birds,” said the Winnipeg Airports Authority’s Breanne Talbot.
It can be dangerous if a plane hits a bird, so it’s a good thing geese and ducks are very rarely spotted at the site.
“We don’t want the public to worry about it,” said Talbot “That is what we do. We make sure their airport is safe and that they feel good coming to the Winnipeg Richardson Airport.”
© Shaw Media, 2013