Earlier this year, Oakland International Airport showed off two brand-new fire-fighting vehicles as part of a simulated emergency response training exercise. The Panther aircraft rescue and fire-fighting (ARFF) units bring significant additional capability to the gateway’s fire service
The two fire trucks – Rosenbauer Panther ARFF vehicles – were involved in the Californian airport’s full-scale emergency exercise conducted in May this year. Oakland International Airport, the Oakland Fire Department (OFD) and other regional emergency response partners were involved in the exercise, which is held at the airport every three years.
The training represented a live response to a simulated aircraft emergency, one that required activation of the Airport’s Emergency Operations Center along with other emergency response tools and practices. Approximately 200 participants took part, including fire-fighters, airport and airline personnel, regional first-response partners and dozens of walking-wounded volunteers.
The OFD provides emergency response services at the airport through fire-fighters based at ARFF Station #22, located between the Oakland International Airport tower and its runways.
“Safety is our top priority at Oakland International,” insists Bryant Francis, director of aviation for the Port of Oakland. “The Oakland Fire Department has been a tremendous ally in our emergency response programme at [Oakland Airport], including the operation of these impressive new fire-fighting vehicles.”
The two Panther ARFF vehicles were designed by Rosenbauer in Austria, manufactured in Minnesota, and purchased by the Port of Oakland for use at the airport in late 2018. They went into service in December.
Keonnis Taylor, the airport’s spokeswoman, recalls the background to the vehicles’ acquisition. “ARFF rig purchases legally follow a public bid process at the Port of Oakland, so we do not really ‘select’ them, but rather put out a specification on which companies bid. The winning bid meets the spec at the lowest price.
In April 2017, the Board of Port Commissioners at Oakland authorised the Port to purchase two ARFF vehicles for an amount not to exceed US$1.39 million from the lowest responsive, responsible bidder. The Port ultimately purchased the vehicles from Rosenbauer Minnesota, LLC because they offered the lowest responsible bid, Taylor says. The newly purchased ARFF vehicles were necessary to replace two older existing vehicles.
Besides those: “We have Oshkosh trucks still serving the airport now and [these will continue to do so] in the future; they meet our needs and their bid would have met all the requirements, just at a higher price.”
The OFD, which operates the new units, provides contracted services to the Port of Oakland’s ARFF services at the airport. According to Taylor, the frequency of deployment for the ARFF vehicles depends, of course on the need for response: however, the team responds to an average of three calls a day. These primarily include emergency medical response in the airport’s terminals and/or response to Yellow Alerts (ie, precautionary alerts) associated with aircraft operations.
In fact, the OFD handles a variety of emergencies at the airport, ranging from fire-fighting and emergency medical response to airfield and water rescue. The airport-based fire-fighters are fully integrated into the Port of Oakland Emergency Response team at Oakland International Airport, Taylor notes.
Oakland Airport offers non-stop connections to over 60 destinations served by 12 different airlines. Taylor confirms that the airport “has been growing for several years with regard to passenger traffic and destinations served. We are looking at ways to accommodate that growth.”