Foam helps stop Burlington blaze
Hangars, planes destroyed in fire

By IAN ROBERTSON, TORONTO SUN

Fire in five airport hangars ripped apart by propane explosions in Burlington destroyed four small planes and several highway vehicles Friday as up to 60 firefighters struggled to get inside.

Local crews battling the $3.5-million blaze at the Burlington Air Park were helped by firefighters from nearby cities, and a Greater Toronto Airport Authority team was escorted by police from Pearson airport in their runway crash tender foam truck.

The blaze was finally brought under control after the Toronto team sprayed foam over the entire structure and the damaged planes, Burlington Fire Capt. Ben Rotsma said yesterday, adding: "It was instrumental in allowing us to control this fire."

Regular fire trucks would have become bogged down in the soggy lawn near the hangar, but the shorter airport crash truck is equipped with large, wide tires designed to roll over obstacles and support its heavier weight.

SEVERAL EXPLOSIONS

One propeller-driven plane estimated to be worth as much as $1 million was saved, but Rotsma said it was damaged. Four cars, a recreational vehicle, tractors, other gear and four aircraft were destroyed.

"When the first crew arrived, they found flames shooting from the roof and heard several explosions from propane tanks inside the structure," Rotsma said of the privately owned, metal-sided storage hangars on Bell School Line.

Firefighters from Oakville, Milton and Hamilton were dispatched to fight what he called a "huge, huge" fire and had to bring their own water, since rural Burlington has no fire hydrants.

But Rotsma said they had difficulty getting inside the 130x16-metre complex. The main door was electrically controlled and couldn't be opened by the firefighters, he said. A snowplow operator on the site used his rig to rip open the sliding doors.

A sixth hangar was badly damaged and will likely have to be razed.

No evidence of foul play was detected, but an Ontario Fire Marshal's investigator began probing the smoldering ruin yesterday morning because of the high value of the loss.