Last week, firefighters in a number of departments around Aurora, Illinois, faced an extremely unusual situation. Arriving on a dramatic scene that could have been straight out of an airfield in England in World War II, they faced a burning, restored B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that had landed in a farm field shortly after take off from the Aurora Municipal Airport, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago.
The Liberty Belle, one of only about 10 remaining flying examples of the aircraft out of 12,731 built, developed a fire in an engine, causing the pilot to turn back to the airport and then deciding to set the plane down in an unplowed field.
First arriving units found the plane intact, with the fire spreading, located about 3,000 feet from the nearest road. Mutual aid was immediately requested for additional brush units. This heads-up move proved worthwhile as two of the responding brush rigs got stuck in the wet field.
Luckily, the seven crew members and passengers escaped without injury, and were outside the plane when first units arrived.
While this type of incident is extremely rare, it should make us think about how we would handle something entirely out of the ordinary. For example, while the available brush units had relatively small water tanks, the use of on-board Class-A foam helped in knocking down the flames. Large rigs could not successfully negotiate the outlying areas muddy field so the lack of big rigs was made up with multiple smaller ones.
The next day, the Oswego Fire Protection District returned to the scene with their hydraulic rescue tools to assist workers in disassembling the plane so it could be removed. Even with the extensive center section airframe damage, there were quite a few salvageable components according to officials.
While most unusual, this incident would be a good subject for a kitchen table drill—what would your department have done to handle the situation?
More photos can be found here http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-110613-b17-plane-crash-pictures,0,3672607.photogallery
Photo by Tony McCoy