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Planes provide new fire training

Park Rapids firefighters trained to douse jet fuel fires last weekend. They also worked on rescuing passengers from a burning plane. (Submitted photo)

BY Sarah smith

As air traffic increases at the Park Rapids Municipal Airport, so does the likelihood of a mishap.

Saturday morning Park Rapids firefighters trained to extinguish a fiery plane crash, and rescue the survivors.

This is the first training held locally. Most firefighters train at an airport in the Twin Cities.

Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller was one of the training instructors.

“You’ve got 3M flying in an out with jets, touch-and-go landings from UND and a lot of private aircraft out here,” he said.

Almost as if on cue, two jets from 3M landed with passengers bound for Wonewok, several planes with student pilots from the University of North Dakota landed and took off again and a number of private aircraft used the runway last Saturday morning.

It was chaotic.

A small plane lined up in between the two jets for takeoff, worrying Lohmiller.

“That second jet will be right on him,” Lohmiller said of the jet quickly gaining on the small plane in the sky.

“Look at the jet turning off,” he said when the jet banked sharply left to avoid the small plane.

It’s not the fear of a near-miss that prompted the training, although that’s always a possibility, said Park Rapids Fire Chief Donn Hoffman.

His crews worked hard at extinguishing a high octane blaze and rescuing passengers from a jet body used for training.

“It’s not necessarily just about our airport,” Hoffman said. “If you have the ability and the training and you happen to be in area where a plane needs to come down, he might not be scheduled for you but he might need to come to your place,” so training is crucial.

But Hoffman said the Park Rapids airport’s traffic may in itself justify the training.

“We have enough flights, big private jets, small planes,” Hoffman said.

“What might happen is somebody’s en route to Winnipeg from Sioux Falls,” the chief added. “They need a 5,000 foot runway and we’re here.”

Park Rapids’ mile-long runway might necessitate an emergency landing.

And Hoffman said he sees the need for the airport to begin work on a cross-wind runway.

The whole idea is you want to land and take off into the wind. If you have an unusual wind and it’s strong, then we’ll use the cross wind.

“The whole idea is you want to land and take off into the wind,” he said. “If you have an unusual wind and it’s strong, then we’ll use the cross wind.”

He hopes more airport training will follow, so his crews are prepared for any mishap.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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