In light of SFO crash Valley firefighters are prepared

FRESNO, Calif.

At Fresno Yosemite International Airport a group of firefighters is always on standby and goes through a specialized training program to prepare for plane crashes. According to the experts the chances of being in a plane involved in a crash are very, very small.

The National Transportation Safety Board says only one in 1.2 million flights have an accident. But firefighters here go through intense training should a crash happen in the valley.

In 1994 a jet on a military training mission over the Central Valley collided into a Fresno apartment complex leaving behind blocks of destruction. The impact left debris all around Olive and Recreation.

Two pilots on board died and 20 people on the ground were injured. Fresno firefighter Chuck Tobias was one of the first rescuers to get there.

"Best way to describe it would be horrific, it wasn't a giant fire. I have had much bigger fires but when you look at the impact of the jet and the aftermath , it is something you will never forget. The apartments were on fire, we and people trying to jump through windows. So my immediate concern was the rescue of people who lived in that apartment complex," Tobias said.

Firefighters went to that crash in large aircraft rescue trucks. And in the event of another crash a team is always undergoing intense training in those rigs, to save lives.

"The design of the crash rigs is set up for aircraft emergencies because they have to sit up higher to do the task they do," Tobias said.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires these firefighters to get to any crash site on airport grounds within three minutes. Their trucks carry more than 3,000 of water. And use the same foam as firefighters in San Francisco used after the Asiana airlines crash landing.

"The foam forms a blanket on top of that flammable liquid to actually smother it," Tobias said.

The airport has two of fire trucks on standby at all times. Crews on board wear a thick silver suits to protect them from any flames.

"They are actually covered with a foil to reflect away the heat which we don't have to have on normal firefighting operations for house fires," Tobias said.

Although the FAA requires the trucks to get anywhere on these grounds within three minutes. Firefighters here say they can make it in about a minute and thirty seconds.

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