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Roof on fire

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif.--In order to get their certification to tackle burning airplanes, fire crews must complete an annual training program in which they go through realistic simulations of airplane emergencies involving actual fires.

This week, the NASA Ames Fire Department, along with "mutual aid" departments from nearby Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, went through the program, testing their skills on a mobile trainer called the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) trainer.

Here, we see the roof of the trainer ablaze.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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The plane

This is the trainer, sitting on the tarmac at Moffett Field, adjacent to NASA Ames Research Center. Not seen here are fire crews getting ready for their training.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Ready to go

A crew member gets ready to battle the blaze inside and outside the trainer aircraft.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Cooling down

Before the exercise begins, a fire truck blankets the airplane with water in order to cool it down.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Fog of water

In these practice exercises, crews shower the fire with a "fog" of water, rather than a focused stream. This is because in real-life conditions, they'd be using a combination of water and a special foam that blankets the fire. Using a strong stream of water would break the film created by the foam, allowing the fire to break through. But by using a fog of water, they can attack the fire without breaking through that film.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Pooled fuel on fire

A huge fire rises off the ground, where propane is sending up big bursts of flames to simulate jet fuel that would be pooled and burning on the tarmac outside a real burning airplane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Hosing down the plane

Crews work hard to hose down the fire inside and outside the airplane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Interior

A look inside the interior of the trainer, where mannequins represent passengers who would have to be rescued in an actual emergency.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Tail engine

The training tasks crews with putting out fires in a number of places, including the tail engine, seen here covered in scorch marks.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Left engine

This is the left wing engine, which would also be burning during the exercise.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Wheel

Wheel brakes could be another source of fire in an emergency, so crews have to put out fires there too.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Two jets

Two powerful jets of water are sprayed onto the fire from a truck parked alongside the airplane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Going on board

A member of the training team brings a mannequin on board the airplane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Piercer on crane

In order to practice putting an interior fire out when there is a high degree of pressure built up inside the plane, crews must maneuver a special truck-top crane arm with a piercing device toward the top of the plane. The idea is to break the surface at one small point and hit the fire with water or foam from the roof.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Piercer going in

Here, the piercer starts to go in through the roof of the plane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Positioning the piercer

Here, a fireman works in the cabin of the truck to maneuver the piercer into place.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Water

A spray of water seen coming from the tip of the piercer.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Going in

The piercer begins to go in through the roof of the plane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Engaged

The piercer is fully engaged here, but it goes only a few inches below the roof in order to avoid hitting any passengers inside in the head.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Water pouring out

After the piercer has put out the interior fire, water pours from the bottom of the plane.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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Debrief

Joe Teixeira, who heads up the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting trainer program, debriefs the fire crews after a round of exercises.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Daniel Terdiman/CNET
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