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RNO Fire Department unveils new vehicle to better respond to aircraft emergencies

The Reno-Tahoe International Airport Fire Department has added a new vehicle, called the Panther, to its ranks.

Firefighters and airport officials pushed the Panther into its bay at the department’s garage on the airfield. But in reality, they didn’t actually.

That’s because the Panther weighs 57,000 pounds, too heavy for even a large group of humans to push under their own power. So, while the group placed their hands on the front of the vehicle and walked forward, one firefighter actually backed it into the bay from the cab above the group.

The versatile Panther will help the department quickly respond to aircraft emergencies, said battalion chief Todd Ingalsbee.

“It’s used to extinguish aircraft fires but also is used to safely evacuate airplanes to make sure all the occupants on the aircraft get off safely,” he said.

The department is required to respond to any crash within three minutes, he said. Unlike traditional fire engines, the Panther can spray water as it is moving. It carries 1,500 gallons of water, medical supplies, and cutting tools to evacuate passengers.

The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, the organization that oversees the airport, spent about $854,000 on the vehicle.

Firefighters will be training on the Panther every day and completing daily checkups on the condition of its equipment.

Knowing that the airport has the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art equipment puts those that work with the airport at ease, said Cris Jensen, director of operations and public safety.

“When we’re out talking to airlines about new service, when we’re out in the public talking about why Reno-Tahoe is a great destination, this is one of the things that our users, our tenants, our airlines don’t have to think about,” he said.

In remarks at the start of the unveiling, both Jensen and Ingalsbee celebrated that the department will soon be fully staffed. The department already made three new hires this year.

Jose Davila IV is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Jose Davila IV reports on K-12 education with a focus on Latino students and families in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. He is also a first-year Report for America corps member. Es bilingüe, su familia es de Puerto Rico, y ama los tostones de su padre más que nada.
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