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Peterson Fire Department will provide emergency response for new firefighting aircraft

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Spirit of John Muir, a firefighting supertanker, was unveiled May 5, 2016 at the old airport in Colorado Springs. The converted B747-400, based in Colorado Springs, can be dispatched at speeds of 600 mph carrying nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and can respond to wild fires anywhere in the western U.S. within three hours, according to Global SuperTanker Services. The Peterson Air Force Base Fire Department will provide emergency response services for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Spirit of John Muir, a firefighting supertanker, was unveiled May 5, 2016 at the old airport in Colorado Springs. The converted B747-400, based in Colorado Springs, can be dispatched at speeds of 600 mph carrying nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and can respond to wild fires anywhere in the western U.S. within three hours, according to Global SuperTanker Services. The Peterson Air Force Base Fire Department will provide emergency response services for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Spirit of John Muir, a firefighting supertanker, was unveiled May 5, 2016 at the old airport in Colorado Springs. The converted B747-400, based in Colorado Springs, can be dispatched at speeds of 600 mph carrying nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and can respond to wild fires anywhere in the western U.S. within three hours, according to Global SuperTanker Services. The Peterson Air Force Base Fire Department will provide emergency response services for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Spirit of John Muir, a firefighting supertanker, was unveiled May 5, 2016 at the old airport in Colorado Springs. The converted B747-400, based in Colorado Springs, can be dispatched at speeds of 600 mph carrying nearly 20,000 gallons of water or fire retardant and can respond to wild fires anywhere in the western U.S. within three hours, according to Global SuperTanker Services. The Peterson Air Force Base Fire Department will provide emergency response services for the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Robb Lingley)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - -- The Spirit of John Muir, the nation's largest firefighting aircraft, made Colorado Springs its permanent home here May 5.

The massive Boeing 747-400 performed in front of an invitation-only crowd at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The Peterson AFB fire department is the first responders to any catastrophe that could happen at the Colorado Springs Airport and is required to undergo familiarization training for any aircraft that is assigned.

"With the 747 being a new aircraft that's assigned to the Colorado Springs Airport, and we are the fire department for that airport, our firefighters have to get training on it," said Rodney E. Coleman, PAFB Deputy Fire Chief.

"The airport owns the runways, taxiways and the airfield," said Coleman. "The airport does not charge the Air Force fees for the use of the airport and its taxiways because the Air Force provides all of the emergency firefighting and emergency medical response."

The plane can carry up to 19,600 gallons of water, fire retardant or foam anywhere in the western U.S. in under three hours. More than 10 million acres burned last year and experts believe that fire seasons tend to start earlier in the year and often last longer. The Supertanker cannot only fight fires in the U.S. but it can also respond to fires anywhere in the world in under 20 hours of flight time.

"We were very impressed with the airplane and its capabilities," said Coleman. "There's a lot of applications it has."

To prepare for newly assigned aircraft, the PAFB Fire Department does classroom training, hands on training and conducts exercises so they are prepared for any event to include normal and emergency shut down procedures, where the batteries are, hazards on the aircraft and where the fuel is located.

If an airplane were to belly in and the crew was unconscious there's "T" handles on most airplanes that will activate the fire suppression system on the one, two, three and four engines, said Coleman. There's a lot of training that firefighters have to get on emergency entry rescue firefighting procedures.

Training will be scheduled for each of the fire department shifts. They will walk around the outside, go inside and also acquire literature that can be provided to help them learn more about the Supertanker and develop a lesson plan.

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