The Delaware Air National Guard has a new piece of emergency equipment ready to roll in the event of an aircraft emergency at the Wilmington Airport.
The Rosenbauer Panther 6x6 Airport Rescue Fire Fighting unit (ARFF) is 39-feet long, 12 ft. high, and 10 ft. wide, weighs 77,000 lbs., and carries 3,000 gallons of water, 400 gallons of foam, and 500 pounds of dry chemical.
The new rig is part of a major United States Air Force contract for 71 Rosenbauer crash trucks authorized in November, 2018, at a total cost of almost $50 million and replaces a nearly 25-year old unit at Wilmington Airport.
Ronald Stanton, Assistant Chief of Operations for the Guard's fire department at Wilmington Airport, said the truck has all of the latest technological tools for fighting aircraft fires.
"It uses ultra-high pressure for discharging its water," said Stanton, "which means the water comes out in smaller droplets which allows it to absorb heat more efficiently.
"At three hundred gallons a minute, theoretically, you would use less water to put out the same amount of fire as any of the other old crash trucks that we have."
Stanton said it's actually a nice ride.
"It handles amazing compared to everything we've driven before," said Stanton. "It's smooth, the operation inside is user friendly. The younger generation is a lot more tech savvy, and everything in there is on a touch screen."
And in an emergency when seconds count, the new crash truck provides improved speed.
"The pick up speed of the new truck let's us get down the runways a little quicker as opposed to the 25-year-old monstrosity we have out there now," quipped Stanton.
The truck has a single bumper turret for extinguishment which can be activated while the rig is still in motion.
"That's one of the big differences between these trucks and a structural apparatus," said Stanton. "That's one of the big advantages of a crash apparatus is the pump and roll capabilities."
The guard fire department does maintain a fire truck for structural responses on the airport grounds along with a 4,000-gallon water tanker, and their mission has evolved in recent years to include mutual aid responses with New Castle County volunteer fire companies.
"Our main mission is obviously the C-130s, that's why we're here," said Stanton. "We have an agreement with the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) to protect the civilian airport because we have the ARFF apparatus here, and especially with the new Frontier Airlines coming in that's an important aspect of why we're here.
"Then we also have the base population which during the day is around 300 and it swells tp 1,000 during drill weekends, so we're responsible for all of the buildings on the military base.
"And then in the last three years we've been responding off base with Wilmington Manor Fire Company, which allows us to assist the community," said Stanton.
And when they're not responding to calls on base or off, Stanton said they're training - a lot.
"For this fire department we're responsible for the base and the airport to do airport firefighting, haz-mat, basic EMS, fire prevention, basically things that a lot of other places divvy out, we're responsible for with a 30-man full time fire department," said Stanton.