When it comes to saving lives, the best of the best technology is needed. The Palm Springs International Airport recently received two new vehicles specialized in aircraft rescue and firefighting. Both are replacing two of the older vehicles purchased in 2003. The newer vehicles will stay at the airport and are always ready to respond to aircraft alerts, fuel spills, hazmat situations, and other emergencies that may arise at PSP.

“These units exemplify every part of that 18 years of new technology. Quicker, faster, safer,” said Palm Springs Fire Department captain Nathan Gunkel.

For any commercial service airport to stay open, it’s a requirement that it keeps a certain level of rescue and firefighting equipment and capability. Airport officials said the new trucks they acquired will make sure the airport is able to meet FAA requirements for years to come.

“Its primary purpose is to deliver water and what we call firefighting agent to any types of fires that may occur, whether it’s aircraft-related, building-related or whatnot here at the airport,” said PSFD engineer and paramedic Jason Vaccarello.

The news trucks are called the Oshkosh Striker 1500 Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) vehicles. The total cost of both was $1.7 million. Airport officials said 90% of the cost was covered with federal funds and the other 10% with local airport funds. Their expected lifespan is 15 years.

“You can’t put a cost on human life,” said Gunkel.

Even though the ARFF vehicles are primarily for the airport, they can on occasion provide mutual aid for off-airport emergencies, such as the fuel spill in Banning along I-10 last month. In that situation, PSP was able to provide one ARFF vehicle to help CalFire and still meet all FAA requirements to keep the airport safe and operational. CalFire requested PSP’s assistance as a precaution against the fuel spill since ARFF vehicles can quickly put out a fuel fire by spraying several inches of foam, blocking all oxygen, and preventing a possible wildfire.

“These new ARFF vehicles provide the Airport’s ARFF staff with the best equipment possible,” said Harry Barrett, Assistant Executive Director of Aviation. “Palm Springs International Airport and Palm Springs Fire Department continually train and maintain emergency preparedness to provide the best protection, and now we have the newest technology and equipment for the airport and our traveling public.”

One of the latest pieces of tech the trucks have is an infrared camera.

“It gives us the ability to see within hidden hot spots within an aircraft, and pinpoint the areas that may be on fire,” said Vaccarello.

The trucks have more advanced controls and stronger windshields to protect from the heat. Each truck carries 1,500 gallons of water and 210 gallons of foam. 

“The Palm Springs city International Airport has the best of the best because we think our citizens and our visitors are the best of the best and we want to treat them like that,” said Gunkel.

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