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Birmingham Airport bringing new fire station online soon

Published: May. 19, 2022 at 8:01 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - When a landing gear issue sent a plane off the runway at Birmingham Shuttlesworth Airport in January, it was one of 14 aircraft emergencies firefighters responded to in the first three months of the year.

In fact, over the last three years, Birmingham firefighters attached to the airport have responded to more than 100 aircraft emergencies and nearly 400 medical emergencies.

“The majority of the calls are gonna be like in-flight emergency, you might have smoke in the cockpit,” said Battalion Chief Kenneth Hatcher. “You may have, you know, problems with landing gear, we probably do three or four of those a week.”

The Birmingham firefighters assigned to the airport are housed in the fire station Birmingham has shared with the Air National Guard’s fire department since the early 90′s.

But in late 2022, Birmingham Fire and Rescue will move from the National Guard facility on the north end of the airport, into a new facility in the middle of the field, right next to the terminal.

“The rules say that you have to be able to respond to the furthest point on the airport, you know, in under three minutes for the first vehicle” said Airport President and CEO Ron Mathieu. “So being midfield allows you to respond just about the, anywhere on the airport well, under that.”

The 10 million dollar project, funded mostly by a federal grant, went to Construction Works Incorporated.

Enrico Washington, Vice President of Operations at CWI, says his workers built the facility over 18 months without interrupting airport operations, and that the new facility includes some important upgrades.

“We have what is called, it’s a foam-based system that we actually had to provide a pump, that’s not water-based for the fire trucks to actually put out, the retardant that they use versus water. That actually speeds up the process in case of a fire on the runway, they’re able to actually be able to put out a fire lot faster than with water”, said Washington.

That firefighting foam will be transported, and if need be, applied by a new generation of fire trucks.

At at combined 1.5 million dollars, the airports two new fire trucks have extendable arms that can attack a fire from below or above.

“They have also a device now, if there was a fire in the aircraft, you can penetrate the skin with it and lay down a curtain foam and put that out”, said Mathieu.

For Enrico Washington, who grew up in Titusville, there’s a particular pride in completing a project that he says is more than a building.

“When I was a kid, we used to be able to go up to East Lake Boulevard and we used to park on the side of the fence and watch planes come in and out,” said Washington.

Now, decades later, the construction veteran is making an impact on the region’s economic engine, while recognizing the promise of the airport’s namesake.

“Reverend Fred Shuttleworth’s name on this building, on this facility. It means a lot too because of what he did way before my time. But I’m a benefactor of the efforts that he put in here,” said Washington.

There is no move-in date yet for Birmingham firefighters. Mathieu said the Birmingham Fire Department and the National Guard will continue their interagency agreement, which means they will both respond to incidents at the airport to have as many assets and personnel available as possible.

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