EMERGENCY DRILL: Aviation Fire Rescue runs through a drill at the Ballina Airport as part of emergency preparation proceedures.
EMERGENCY DRILL: Aviation Fire Rescue runs through a drill at the Ballina Airport as part of emergency preparation proceedures. Marc Stapelberg

Highly trained rescue crew can respond within 40 seconds

AFTER a year in operation, the Ballina Aviation Rescue Fire Station and its 17 staff are literally ready to roll out the hoses within 40 seconds of an aviation fire alert.

The $12.5 million facility is one of only 26 aviation-specific stations in the country.

Record numbers at the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport necessitated the construction of the fire station, which has responded to 11 incidents since December 22, 2014.

Its 17 highly-trained crew have relocated to Ballina from around the country and are led by fire station manager Inspector Wayne Morrison.

"We have a had an eventful first year, responding to 11 incidents while getting the station fully operational," Insp Morrison said.

His crew have responded to first aid calls, fire alarms and mutual aid fire incidents such as the recent tip fire where two Fire and Rescue NSW trucks were assisted by the aviation fire fighters.

"We provide a category 6 service at Ballina, and are here to respond to aviation fire incidents that happen within one kilometre of Ballina Byron Gateway airport," he said.

The facility was only made possible by the booming Ballina airport passenger numbers.

Insp Morrison said the "tipping point" to necessitate an aviation rescue fire station was when the airport received more than 350,000 passengers in a financial year.

"Passengers are pushing 400,000 per year. The airport is going from strength to strength and we're here to respond to any fire or first aid emergency," he said.

The impressive new Mark 8 fire fighting vehicle is purpose-built for aviation fuel fires. The 30-tonne machine pumps out 80 litres of fire fighting foam per second and will throw it up approximately 90m.

It is the only unit that can 'pump and roll', meaning it can be used while mobile.

Last year, the airport experienced the busiest October in history with more than 44,000 passengers flying into and out of the North Coast. It comes in addition to a record 113,515 passengers in the first three months of the financial year, an 8.2% increase on the previous year and the highest September quarter documented.



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