Like any fire department, the station at Oakland International Airport hopes for the best, but always prepares for the worst. The firefighters are on duty for disasters and emergencies, like an aircraft crash, a fire at the passenger terminal or anything else that requires their attention.
It’s a specialized role and the station’s equipment is tailored to its unique requirements. Just consider the two aircraft fire vehicles purchased at the end of last year by the Port of Oakland, which operates the airport.
Forget any ideas about a bright red hook and ladder truck clanging through city streets, these Rosenbauer Panther AFF vehicles look more like something the military would use to neutralize . Massive, yellow and almost streamlined, they’re made to fight fires using long booms with water cannons (AFF stands for Aircraft Fire Fighting). Together, the two vehicles cost $1.4 million.
Firefighters from the Oakland Fire Department can operate the booms from the vehicle’s cab, though they’ll use a standard fire hose if they have to enter a burning aircraft. Fully loaded, the 43-ton vehicles hold 3,170 gallons of water and 422 gallons of foam. A 750-horsepower engines lets them speed across the runway and apron to wherever they needed.
Though the Austrian-designed and American-built vehicles are meant for airport use, one firefighter told me they can be deployed into the city if needed. For example, in one instance a few years ago, the long booms on one of the airport’s vehicles were ideal for reaching a burning big rig truck on an elevated freeway.
For a closer look inside the Panthers, click through the gallery above.