Disaster Drill

Emergency service and disaster response personnel took part in a training and a mock airport disaster drill at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire on Tuesday. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

A fire and rescue truck approached a blaze Tuesday at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, spraying a flaming tray from a safe distance. The fire was part of an airport emergency exercise that involved multiple fire departments in the Chippewa Valley.

Nearby, maintenance supervisor Todd Norrell observed his staff go through the mock disaster drill.

“The training is great for all our employees,” Norrell said. “It gives them the perspective of how to approach the aircraft. It’s a good hands-on experience to sharpen our skills.”

Airport director Charity Zich said a realistic plane fuselage used during the training comes from Arff Specialists in Superior. The metal mobile aircraft trainer has doors that open and a luggage department.

“It travels all over the upper Midwest, to do training for airports,” Zich explained. “There aren’t many of those around. It’s really nice to have that life-like simulation.”

The fuselage, which fits on a flatbed, appears to be a fairly realistic plane. While it isn’t set on fire, it is filled with smoke during the training while firefighters entered it to search for mannequins.

“When they go to extricate, there is that smoke simulation inside, and they are struggling to find victims,” Zich said.

The airport’s seven maintenance employees are cross-trained to provide the fire and rescue services on the grounds.

“That’s common at airports our size,” Zich said.

The last drill was in 2016; the training session is required by the Federal Aviation Administration once every three years, she explained. Zich said it is a good experience to get all the area fire departments to the airport.

“Thankfully, the responders don’t have the opportunity to practice airport response frequently, so it’s really important to have this chance to come together,” she said. “Most of the fire departments in the Chippewa Valley are represented.”

Before heading out for the training, the firefighters attended a two-hour classroom training seminar, she said.