Massport's Fire-Rescue HQ

Some of the most advanced firefighting equipment in the world is housed in a 50,000-square-foot firehouse at Boston's Logan International Airport, where Massport Fire-Rescue makes its headquarters.

Photo by David Liscio
Massport Fire-Rescue Engine 1 is a 1995 Pierce Arrow pump-and-roll engine that carries 1,000 gallons of water and 220 gallons of foam.

The $12 million station, opened in April 1995, has a cavernous 11,000-square-foot apparatus floor. Two of the 10 bays are rapid-service, drive-through and the concrete floor can be heated as needed to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

The 87-member department includes four women. It is divided into four 17-member crews with minimum staffing of 13 firefighters per shift. Each firefighter has two sets of gear standard bunker for structural fires and reflective aluminized for aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF). Fifty-four of the firefighters are EMTs.

The department, established in 1946, averages eight runs per day for medical emergencies, alarms, fuel spills and structural fires. About half of the runs are for medical emergencies involving the flying public or airport personnel, while the firefighters are called out on an average of once daily for aircraft emergencies, according to Captain Paul Moore, a Massport Fire-Rescue planning and technical services officer.

Another $2 million, two-bay fire station at the intersection of two runways was occupied in July 1996, and has reduced the average response time. The station is equipped with two 3,000-gallon ARFF vehicles and is staffed around the clock by one lieutenant and three firefighters.

While most airport fire departments depend for water on supplies carried aboard their trucks, hydrants have been installed on the airfield at Logan International.

The department's new Pierce 100-foot aerial platform has custom features, referred to in the design phase as the Logan Option. For instance, the bucket has double-hinged doors for maneuverability and an extended platform with a bumper. It can reach the upper decks of a Boeing 747 aircraft, which are as tall as a two-family house, as well as the high-rise hotels at the airport.

Photo by David Liscio
Boston's Logan International Airport is the home of Massport Fire-Rescue headquarters. The $12 million station has an 11,000-square-foot apparatus floor.

The bucket has brackets on one side to clamp a 16-foot roof ladder, since the airport is virtually surrounded by ocean. Should a water rescue become necessary at the end of a runway, the fully extended aerial would hang out horizontally over the ocean and the attached roof ladder would aim downward toward the ocean surface.

"Before we had this, the bucket could extend out over the water, but the riprap was so high the people being rescued wouldn't be able to reach the tip. The small ladder clamped to the side of the bucket makes up for the difference," Moore said. The fire department at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport also has taken delivery of a truck with the Logan Option.

In addition to computers and infrared cameras aboard its front-line vehicles, Massport Fire-Rescue has a new Pierce Arrow pump-and-roll engine, which allows firefighters to pump water and foam from a moving truck.

Assistant Chief Jack Kreckie said the department has taken delivery of a 3,000-gallon ARFF vehicle with extendable turret and articulating boom. The turret is fitted with a camera and powerful lights. Through hydraulic pressure, the nozzle can penetrate the aircraft fuselage and literally peer inside to locate fire, hot spots or trapped personnel, in addition to having the ability to fight the fire with a stream of water or foam.

Massport Fire-Rescue has plenty of vehicles, having purchased more than $1.5 million worth in the past two years. Massport Public Safety Director Joseph Lawless said, "We are committed to having the best equipped airport fire and rescue department" (see the accompanying apparatus list for details).

Training occurs daily. Logan firefighters also teach their skills to firefighters from other communities in the airport's mutual aid district. It's an opportunity for others in the fire service to get a taste of what it's like to extinguish a roaring fuel fire.

One day, Assistant Chiefs Thomas Comeau and William Mackey were in command of the burn pit on Governor's Island at the edge of a remote runway. Firefighters from departments in Winthrop and Dracut, MA, felt the heat generated by a classic fuel fire. After all, the startup temperature in the burn pit was 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mackey, who helped design the training facility with its mock DC-10 fuselage, approached the flames with his crew while Comeau stayed on the radio to direct the flow of jet fuel through underground pipes from a nearby cinderblock control house. Six fires were ignited with an electronic ignition. The first consumed 100 gallons of Jet A aviation fuel and were doused with water. The latter approached 300 gallons and were quickly extinguished with foam.

As the men charged the blaze, Comeau explained the tactic in aircraft crash rescue is simple: "You've got to push the fire away from the aircraft. That gives the aircraft personnel a chance to open the exit and get the people out. Pushing the fire away is especially important if it's military with munitions on board."

The burn pit is designed to catch the fuel runoff. In addition to the steel fuselage, the training facility also has a smokehouse. According to Comeau, smokeless fuel may be used after next year because of complaints about possible pollution generated by the training exercises.

Logan international is the 10th busiest airport in the United States and 16th busiest in the world.

Apparatus List

Engine 1 1995 Pierce Arrow pump-and-roll engine. Carries 1,000 gallons of water and 220 gallons of foam.

Ladder 1 1995 Pierce 100-foot aerial platform with custom bucket offering larger platform for aircraft rescue and brackets for attaching a roof ladder to aid in sea rescue.

Engine 7 1994 Oshkosh T-3000 ARFF vehicle. Carries 3,000 gallons of water and 405 gallons foam.

Engine 4 1992 Oshkosh TA-1500 ARFF vehicle. Carries 1,500 gallons water and 195 gallons foam. Serves as department's reserve truck.

Engine 6 1993 Oshkosh TB-3000 ARFF. Carries 3,000 gallons water and 405 gallons foam.

Engine 3 1989 Emergency One Titan V. Carries 3,000 gallons of water and 400 gallons of foam (3 percent AFFF).

Rescue 1 EMS response unit., 1997 3-D on a Freightliner chassis with light tower, PTO generator and other special equipment.

Engine 2 1986 Protector (made in England) ARFF crash truck. Carries 2,500 gallons water and 217 gallons foam.

Mobile Command Post 40-foot Bluebird bus chassis with custom command post with conference room, video tower, satellite communication, cellular communication, kitchen and bath.

Howard W. Fitzpatrick 90-ton, 80-foot steel-hull fireboat; seven turrets, 14 hose discharges, 6,000 gpm. Carries 500 gallons of foam. Firefighting capability equivalent to six fire trucks.

Boston Whaler 27-foot rigid-hull, high-speed rescue boat. Powered by twin 200-hp outboards. Can make 40 knots. Has onboard 250-gpm portable pump.

David Liscio, a Firehouse® correspondent, is a reporter for the Daily Evening Item in Lynn, MA, and a call firefighter in Nahant, MA.