Roanoke Blacksburg Airport holding aviation fire training all week

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:52 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - One of the most important duties of a first responder is to be prepared in the face of nearly any emergency, and the Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Airport is spending the week helping area first responders to do just that.

With the Virginia Department of Aviation’s fire simulator and hundreds of gallons of water, Roanoke area first responders are being trained to save lives in a unique situation.

“We’re providing live burn training for our aircraft rescue and firefighting team,” says Brad Boettcher, the director of marketing and air service development at the Roanoke Blacksburg Regional Airport. “The FAA requires that once a year you have to do live burn training to maintain your certification. We like to improve on that so we make sure that we do it at least twice a year for our team.”

“Anytime you can actually get out in the field and do physical training, get your hands on it and work with it, you’re going to get a whole lot more out of it,” adds public safety officer Jared Cypher.

The training will give dozens of first responders familiarization with airplane-related fires should this kind of emergency take place. The airport has partnered with local fire departments who would serve as mutual aid if a fire happened at the airport.

“We’ll have our entire public safety office [train]. We’ll definitely get through at least three burns per officer,” notes Boettcher. “Then bring in Roanoke County, Roanoke City, Botetourt and Salem; that will probably be another 75 firefighters that will also get additional training.”

“When you perform a task over and over again, it becomes easier to do it when you’re under a stress situation,” explains Cypher. “You don’t have to think about it when you have a lot of other factors going on, if you have burning aircraft and people running around the runway. If you’ve practiced it enough, you can do what you were supposed to be doing at the time.”

Boettcher says the last time the airport handled a situation like one they are training for, it was about 10 years ago. To him and the first responders, practice makes perfect.

“When they respond to an incident, should we have one, they know what to do and they don’t have to think about it, they’re just able to react,” says Boettcher.

Airport officials also say this Saturday they have a larger-scale training that they need to complete every three years that will prepare first responders for these types of emergencies on an even more realistic scale.

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