Saturday, April 30, 2016

Prescott Fire’s response on dumpster blaze may show impacts of brownouts

Firefighters check a dumpster near the Prescott airport after it caught fire on April 14. The fire response time took longer than usual, because of a brownout of station 73 at the airport.

PRESCOTT – A fire on airport property April 14 was put down in about five minutes, once a fire engine was able to get to the scene. It took that engine 12 minutes to arrive, because the airport’s fire station was browned-out that day.

But Fire Chief Dennis Light said he was unwilling to “Monday-morning quarterback” as to whether the brownout made for a longer response.

That morning, a large, construction-site sized dumpster caught fire on the Prescott Municipal Airport property.

Fire station 73, at the airport, was browned-out; the station was manned by two firefighters in Rescue 73, a beefed-up pickup truck that can’t be used to fight fires, and one firefighter dedicated to “Foam 73,” the Airport Rescue/Firefighting (ARFF) truck, which is designed to be operated by the driver as he sits in the cab.

The Daily Courier obtained a recording of the dispatches made on the call, along with the times they were transmitted. The call came in from the airport control tower at 11:33:05 a.m. The tower operator reported seeing black smoke and flames but could not see the source, because there was a building in the way.

A second caller, 30 seconds later, told dispatch that there were large flames and a nearby office trailer was in danger.

The dispatcher assigned Patrol 73 (a brush-fire fighting truck, used as Rescue 73) from the airport fire station, and Engine 74, based at 2747 Smoke Tree Lane, about 6 miles away, at 11:35:27, calling the incident a “possible level-one wildland fire.”

At 11:38:16, Foam 73, the ARFF truck, arrived at the scene and the engineer reported that he was protecting the building next to the dumpster with a truck-mounted spray nozzle.

However, “the only fire was in the steel dumpster and his bumper-mounted turret is mounted too low to shoot into a tall commercial dumpster,” Division Chief Don Devendorf said, so the truck could not fight the fire.

He added that it is common for Foam 73 to respond to non-aircraft related calls, and that the engineer who operates it simply heard the call and decided to go.

Foam 73’s engineer requested two fire engines to respond to the scene, and said there was a Conex storage box close to the fire as well.

A dispatcher sent Central Yavapai Fire District’s Engine 59, based at 6401 N. Viewpoint Drive in Prescott Valley, about 8 miles away.

But CYFD’s Engine 51 happened to be in the area, on Highway 89A, and agreed to take the call instead.

Patrol 73 got to the fire at 11:43:55 and immediately asked for a fire engine to respond.

At 11:44:48, nearly 12 minutes after the initial call, Engine 74 arrived and began to work the fire.

Engine 51 was next to get to the scene, staging near the fire at 11:47:10.

Engine 74’s crew had the fire knocked down in five minutes after they pulled up to the dumpster, the recording shows.

Figures provided by the Prescott Fire Department indicate that, 90 percent of the time in fiscal year 2015, it took nine minutes to get a fire engine to a scene; this incident took 20 percent longer.

The ARFF truck was released at 11:58:44 and had refilled its water tanks and was back in service at 12:49:17. It was tied up on the call for an hour and 30 minutes, unavailable for aircraft emergencies.

That’s not a problem, Devendorf said.

“While we are required to provide ARFF coverage during commercial flights, meaning passenger operations provided by commercial air carriers, like Great Lakes – and I’m not sure if there was a flight during that event – there are provisions for that truck to be allowed to be out of service for maintenance and things like training, for short time periods, as long as backup coverage is provided. We do that with engine companies,” he said, noting that there was an engine parked for the day at station 73 as well as CYFD’s Engine 51 that was at the scene but staging, waiting for an assignment.

Asked for his analysis of the situation, the Fire Chief said, “As far as creating any sort of untoward or less-than-desirable outcome … that would be purely anecdotal.”

Light pointed out that “as much as our normal practice would have been to respond with the fire engine (73) and go around the runway, in this particular instance, since we sent the crash truck, and it had the more direct route across the airfield, we were able to confine the fire to its area of origin, which was the metal dumpster.”

He said he would prefer not to “speculate” on what might have happened had the fire been in a building and not a dumpster.

Original article can be found here:

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