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Firefighters sharpen skills during training at Treasure Coast International Airport

St. Lucie County pushes to increase passenger services at airport
Firefighter training exercise held at Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park in St. Lucie County on Jan. 27, 2022
Posted at 12:51 PM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 18:33:07-05

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Firefighters in St. Lucie County held training exercises Thursday at the Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park, sharpening their rescue skills while focusing on responding to emergencies.

One of the planned scenarios included a plane on fire where it was unclear if they would be able to enter or whether anyone was trapped inside.

"Aircraft incidents are far a few between. However, we want to maintain our readiness at all times," said Capt. Charles Chandler with the St. Lucie County Fire District.

Firefighter training exercise held at Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park in St. Lucie County on Jan. 27, 2022
Firefighters conduct a training session at the Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park in St. Lucie County on Jan. 27, 2022.

Chandler said firefighters first tackle the flames, keeping an eye out for any fuel slicks that might cause it to spread. They then work to make entry into the aircraft.

In one scenario, they can get through an unobstructed door to the fuselage. But in another, their only option is cutting their way through the metal to look for victims.

Officials said from start to finish this rescue took 10 minutes.

"We want to stay sharp. We train just about every day, every shift," Chandler said.

Capt. Charles Chandler with the St. Lucie County Fire District speaks about fire training at Treasure Coast International Airport, Jan. 27, 2022
Capt. Charles Chandler explains what crews are hoping to achieve while conducting the various exercises.

Because aircraft fires are rare, training for them to stay sharp is important to help them brush up on their skills.

"We don't get the opportunity to do live, fire training regularly," Chandler said.

As the airport grows in size and traffic, firefighters know their training here could become more needed.

The exercises are also critical to helping the county achieve its goal of expanding passenger services at Treasure Coast International Airport.

St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky speaks about fire training at Treasure Coast Airport
St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky explains why fire training is important for airport expansion.

"Treasure Coast Airport is currently a GA airport -- General Aviation -- and certainly the population is pushing forward in which we're going to need to have passenger service to make us that much more acceptable for local businesses or businesses who come to St. Lucie County," said St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky.

Firefighters would need to train like this annually to meet Federal Aviation Administration criteria for expanding commercial flights.

"My hope, and my goal, is maybe in the next five years have at least commuter service. It will be 30 years before we're ever a Palm Beach International," Dzadovsky said.