Mastering the Art of Aircraft Rescue and Fire fighting

In an environment where jet engines roar daily, a team of unsung heroes stands prepared for moments we all hope never arrive. At the core of this team at Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport (KRWI) 1 is Jarrett Moss, a man who wears many hats: CFI, Interim Airport Director, Fire Chief, and a dedicated volunteer at Cooper’s Fire and Rescue. Jarrett’s narrative transcends mere fire fighting; it’s a tale of passion, dedication, and the niche world of Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF), requiring a unique blend of expertise and innovation.

The Beast:
The Oshkosh T-1500

“Our apparatus isn’t just any fire truck,” Jarrett begins, introducing the Oshkosh T-1500. This formidable machine boasts 1500 gallons of water, 200 gallons of foam, and a 500 lb. dry chemical system, standing ready for the unique challenges of aviation fires. “This truck is unlike any other,” Jarrett asserts, a statement that not only reflects the truck’s physical prowess but also the specialized approach required for Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF).
Yellow-Green Oshkosh T-1500 at KRWI tarmac displaying foam and water spraying.

Morning Brew & Safety:
The ARFF Day-Starter

Imagine starting your day by rigorously checking “the beast” and the functionality of safety gear, followed by a workout session to ensure peak physical fitness. This is how Jarrett’s mornings unfold, emphasizing a relentless commitment to readiness. “First thing, before we do anything, is we do our truck checkoffs,” Jarrett shares, underlining the importance of being prepared in emergency services. This routine offers a window into the discipline and dedication necessary, not just for personal fitness but also to guarantee the flawless operation of every piece of equipment like their TFT nozzles.

“Most of the time, our emergencies simply involve heading to the runway and ensuring the aircraft lands safely. That accounts for 99% of our calls, knock on wood,” Jarrett says. This unique insight into their day-to-day illuminates a frequently ignored reality — their achievement is not measured by their interventions, but by the stability they maintain.

Evolution in Airport Fire fighting:
Turnout Gear and Boots

The protective equipment donned by the team is a testament to the dramatic strides made in safety technology. The transition from the bulky suits of the past to the sleek Fire-Dex turnout gear of today marks a significant evolution. “So, technology has advanced so much. The “big potato” suits were used because it was better for the heat rating you would be facing. But structural turnout gear has come such a long way. This structural gear is now approved for airport rescue fire fighting. So it’s no different now from standard fire fighting gear,” Jarrett details, highlighting how modern gear enhances comfort, mobility, and protection. He continues, “Leather boots have come a long way. Used to be rubber. And wearing rubber boots and standing on your feet for a long time just does not feel great. But leather boots make it feel just like you’re wearing work boots. It feels comfortable to work in. Same thing with helmets. My newest helmet that I just got is super lightweight,” underscoring the critical advancements in both protection and comfort amidst challenging scenarios.

Foam and the Future:
Innovations in Fire fighting

One of the most compelling topics of our conversation was the transition to fluorine-free foam, a move indicative of the evolving landscape of fire fighting. “We’re currently using Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), but we’re shifting to a Florine Free F3 Foam,” Jarrett shared, highlighting the industry’s push towards more environmentally friendly alternatives without compromising on safety and effectiveness. This pivot not only aligns with global sustainability efforts but also opens the door to discussing the potential benefits of innovative agents like the F500, underscoring the importance of staying abreast with cutting-edge solutions in emergency response. All foam agents must be on the approved The Department of Defense (DoD) list2.

Time is of the Essence:
Navigating the Challenges of ARFF

“According to FAA regulations, we must respond within three minutes from dispatch to water flow,” Jarrett explained, underscoring the relentless pressure and the stringent standards that govern ARFF operations. This requirement is not just a benchmark but a testament to the critical nature of their work, where every second counts and efficiency can mean the difference between disaster and relief.

Training to Save Lives:
The Backbone of ARFF

Perhaps what stood out most in our dialogue was the emphasis on continuous training. “Keeping sharp is crucial,” Jarrett remarked, noting the annual recertification for ARFF Aircraft Burn training. The scarcity of specialized training facilities adds another layer of complexity to their mission, making each exercise at places like the SC Fire Academy not just a routine but a vital component of their preparedness to face the unforeseen.

Beyond the Gear:
A Community of Care and Innovation

What truly sets Jarrett apart is not just his readiness for emergencies but his role within the broader community. Volunteering at Cooper’s Fire and Rescue since his teens, Jarrett’s journey reflects a lifetime commitment to serving and protecting. The seamless blend of professional duties at the airport and voluntary roles in the community underscores a profound dedication to safety and service.

“This truck is a highly requestable asset for Nash, Wilson, and Edgecombe counties. If they [the counties’ first responders] want this apparatus on the scene, all they have to do is ask,” Jarrett states, emphasizing the spirit of collaboration and support that pervades his work.

As our conversation concluded, I was struck by Jarrett’s profound sense of duty, resilience, and innovative spirit. His story is a compelling narrative of bravery, dedication, and the unyielding quest for excellence in Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) at Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport, where every day is a tribute to the spirit of service that flies quietly under the radar, ready to soar in a moment’s need.
  1. Flight operations increased from 10,172 in 2021 to 45,794 in 2023, emphasizing its focus on ARFF innovation and potential for commercial flights, marking KRWI’s dynamic growth.
  2. The DoD now uses fluorine-free foam (F3) to combat PFAS risks, per MIL-SPEC MIL-PRF-32725 from January 2023, limiting PFAS to 1 ppb. This change, affecting military and FAA-regulated facilities, necessitates equipment adjustments to accommodate F3 foam properties.