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Prepping for the worst

Oshawa Fire gets prepared for accident with mock plane crash

Oshawa Fire Services trains using a mock plane crash (with actors) to assist them in the rare event that a real crash happens at the Oshawa Executive Airport. (Photos by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The broken fuselage sits in a pile of debris that extends for nearly a kilometre across the old runway at the Oshawa airport. Clothing, luggage, shoes and hats are peppered around the field and runway amid twisted hulks of metal and the plane’s broken wing.

Firefighters pile out of their trucks, each of them running to different compartments for different gear, all of it bathed in the whirling red of the truck’s lights.

It was a scene of disaster at the Oshawa Executive Airport last week, but thankfully, only a simulated one as members of Oshawa Fire Services prepared themselves in the event of a real crash at the city’s air transport hub. The mock event simulated the potential disaster in the chance a corporate jet were to crash when coming in for a landing at the airport.

“We consider this low frequency, high risk, it’s not something that happens all the time, but when it does happen it’s generally pretty bad,” says Mike Kozak, a training officer with Oshawa Fire. “So, we do want to be prepared, we do want to have our best skills put forward.”

The exercise included simulated fire and victim removal, testing fire services crews on their response and procedures learned during previous in-class sessions.

For Stephen Wilcox, the airport manager, a close relationship between the airport and first responders is a key component to the airport’s operation.

“As you know, the airport is owned and operated by the City of Oshawa and so Oshawa Fire Services are our primary responders. We know that the airport is right in the middle of Oshawa so we have a number of halls that can support us here. So, we have fantastic response times,” he says. “Our Emergency Response Plan is a component of the fire department’s major response plan, so we’re one kind of piece of a bigger puzzle for the City of Oshawa.”

Over the course of four days from Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, nearly every fire services member was able to take part in the training.

“I think the crews have been responding very well and doing what they need to do and following all the guidelines,” says Kozak. “It’s paramount that everybody is safe and nobody is injured and everyone goes home at the end of the day.”

The training exercise follows on the heels of the grand re-opening of the Oshawa Airport’s main runway, which was closed for 35 days through September to accommodate a $6 million reconstruction project.