McKinleyville airport to receive $5.9 million for new fire hall

Paul Mann
Mad River Union 

MCKINLEYVILLE — Construction is tentatively scheduled to start this fall on a two-story aircraft rescue and firefighting building at the California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport, financed in full with a $5.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The concrete and steel structure is projected for completion in six to nine months from the start of construction.

Emily Jacobs

It will stand where the now-demolished World War II nose hangar had been located, built by the Navy in 1942 when the service installed the Auxiliary Naval Air Station-Alameda Airport.

The nose hangar was taken down four years ago as a safety measure.

The ex-hangar location will ensure that aircraft rescue firefighters have “the very best view of the airfield and the fastest access to all aircraft in active aircraft movement areas,” according to Emily Jacobs, airport program director.

The new building will house a state-of-the-art Oshkosh Striker ACV fire rescue vehicle. The airport took delivery in 2009 at a cost of about $1 million.

Jacobs said Saturday that the nearly $6 million in financing under the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program marks the culmination of a 12-year modernization project.

“Hopefully, construction will start sometime this fall,” she said in a telephone interview. “The grant will cover the entire cost. As excavation starts, new underground electrical vaults will be installed” in front of the new building.

The local grant is part of $151.1 million in airport infrastructure financing awarded to 66 airports across 35 states.

An FAA communiqué said the money also funds runways, taxiways and airport signage, lighting and markings.

In that connection, the new aircraft rescue building will be followed by an $11 million upgrade to the airport’s runway lighting, Jacobs said. “The money is in the pipeline but we’re still waiting on that, pending completion of the fire hall.”

The Striker rescue vehicle, which Jacobs described as “bright neon yellow-green” in color, protects up to six crew members when they are summoned to an aircraft fire. It is equipped with high tech infrared camera screens that enable rescuers to pinpoint the exact source of the heat in an aircraft blaze.

The vehicle’s hoses are rigged with titanium piercing nozzles so that they won’t melt in the intense heat inside a burning fuselage.

“The cameras detect the hottest points of a fire, allowing precision targeting,” Jacobs explained.

“The crew can also operate the Striker with a joystick and fight the fire all by remote from inside the vehicle, which has tons of chemicals. The Striker has a water skirt to protect its exterior during a fire.”

Jacobs called the vehicle “the highest technology fire truck on the face of the earth.”

In an aside, the program director extended an invitation to everyone in the community – “classes, schools, charter schools, children’s groups, special needs persons” – to tour the airport.

“We have a very exciting, cutting-edge operation and one of our favorite things to do is to host field trips and show the community our whole operation,” Jacobs said. “Field trips are tailored to all the different groups.”

Arrangements can be made via email to [email protected].

LANDING AIDS EXPERIMENT STATION Humboldt County’s main airport was used by the Navy to experiment with different landing systems. The hangar, above, was torn down and will be the site of a new fire hall. Photo from Fly Humboldt Facebook page


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