By Maj. Meghan Smith
158th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 158th Fire Department responded to a civilian aircraft fire on a runway of Burlington International Airport on the evening of March 24.
The response crews arrived on the scene within one minute of dispatch and confirmed that a civilian aircraft, a Piper Cherokee, was on fire on its right side and the flames were spreading to the wing. Response crews extinguished the fire within three minutes of arrival. They then inspected the aircraft for additional fire or hotspots and found none.
“They did an amazing job responding to the fire here,” said Gene Richards, director of aviation for Burlington International Airport. “Timing is everything. The tower saw the aircraft smoking and Air Force Fire Rescue was just a minute away. A few more seconds could have been devastating to the family on board. The fire was just a foot away from the fuel tanks.”
The pilot and passengers evacuated the aircraft safely before the emergency response crews arrived. At the time of this release, there were no reported injuries.
The 158th Fire Department of the Vermont Air National Guard, is the sole fire response asset for Burlington International Airport.
“We respond to all aircraft emergencies at the airport and within a 15 mile radius,” said Brannon Soter, installation fire chief, 158th Fighter Wing Fire and Emergency Services.
“Fortunately there are few fire emergencies at the airport. It’s very safe,” Soter said. “But when they occur we are trained and ready to respond within minutes, as we did last night.”
The 158th Fighter Wing Fire and Emergency Services routinely assist local first responders in surrounding communities.
“They’re backup for the rest of our community. The VTANG fire is trained at a high level and works hand-in-hand with other first responders. It’s a win-win for our community to have such a valuable asset so close,” Richards said.