For MSP Airport Fire/Local S-6, June signifies the daunting task of getting all members safely through the mandatory FAA annual ARFF Live Burn training to maintain our certification as an ARFF Fire Department for our very own Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport.
Fully a year in the making, each year’s ARFF drills commenced planning the year prior to thoroughly manage all of the details needing to be met… blocking out shift days to ensure members are available, hiring in a company with an aircraft trainer to provide the training, managing 48 members’ schedules and needs to ensure the highest level of flexibility during prime summer vacation days, and most importantly keeping all 48 members safe and injury free. To add a layer of complexity to the situation, every third year’s drill must occur at an off-site, fixed facility. Salt Lake City hosted us in 2018, Duluth in prior timeframes. However, Salt Lake City and Duluth no longer maintain such training facilities leaving ARFF Fire Departments scrambling for a solution.
Hired in February 1999, Assistant Fire Chief/Training Officer Greg Fuller has embraced the challenge of planning these FAA mandated ARFF Live Burn training certifications for 16 years. Sixteen years of scheduling, planning, meeting the requirements of the FAA, overcoming challenges as they arise, and juggling the myriad of seen and unforeseen complexities that accompany such an undertaking. And this year, impacted heavily by the COVID19 pandemic, was no exception. Operating on a shoestring budget, this requirement had to be met as safely and efficiently as possible.
The initial plan for 2021 - pre-pandemic - was to travel to Appleton, WI, for our annual ARFF burn with Fox Valley Tech / ATW ARFF Training Center hosting us for the first time. Situated adjacent to Appleton International Airport and in partnership with Oshkosh Airport Products, this was to begin a new chapter in our annual FAA training requirements. In addition to the ARFF burns, AFD members were scheduled to spend the night, make use of the structural training facility and hopefully be treated to a tour of the Pierce and/or Oshkosh facilities that manufactures our fire apparatus. Sadly, none of the latter plans came to fruition.
However, over the course of 6 days spread out over the first three weeks of June, 45 members traveled in groups of 6 to 8 in two MAC vehicles to Fox Valley Tech for said training. Early starts, late arrivals home, a lot asked of each member, a long day for all… and yet, the overwhelming response from membership was positive… a top tier facility and equipment at our disposal, opportunities to road trip and talk with other members that maybe we didn’t work with all the time, plenty of hands to share in the task of the long drives to and from, meals eaten together and beautiful weather throughout. And even with all those moving parts, all traveled, trained and arrived home safely.
Teamwork, positive attitudes and hard work makes events like this possible - we all play an important role in the success of Airport Fire, from attitude to action. So, thank you to everyone who contributed in making this year’s training a success and thank you Assistant Chief Fuller for all of your efforts and hard work. It is recognized and appreciated!