IAFF calls for strengthening of Canada’s airport firefighting regulations

October 30, 2023

IAFF advocates for international standards

The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has shown its support for a legislative push in Canada aimed at enhancing airport firefighting regulations.

The federal proposal, presented as private member’s motion M-96 by B.C. Liberal MP Ken Hardie, calls for an update of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) to align with international benchmarks for airport rescue and firefighting at Canada’s principal airports.

A brief on current standards

Currently, the CARs do not mandate rescue as a core responsibility of airport firefighters. Instead, they only necessitate these firefighters to arrive at the midpoint of the most distant runway within three minutes.

In contrast, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards advocate for rescue as an essential duty of airport firefighters.

The standards also recommend that these firefighters be equipped to access all active runway sections within three minutes or less.

Public safety concerns raised

During significant emergencies involving aircraft at many of Canada’s major airports, airport firefighters are mainly tasked with spraying a pathway outside the crash site.

This approach relies on the expectation that passengers will either save themselves or seek assistance from flight crew members who may also be victims of the same incident.

Moreover, if a situation calls for the rescue of trapped passengers, the onus typically falls on municipal firefighters.

These local teams might take upwards of 10 minutes to arrive, a timeframe that could prove fatal given the potential hazards inside a crashed aircraft.

Lawmakers weigh in on the motion

During a debate in the House of Commons on October 25th, MP Hardie highlighted that these gaps in the Canadian Aviation Regulations have persisted for decades.

He remarked: “This time, we in Parliament have an opportunity to close the gaps.”

Furthermore, Winnipeg-area Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux vocalized his support for the motion, stating: “Our airports are economic engines, they provide so much to our communities and they need to be safe.”

Similarly, Bloc Québecois MP Jean-Denis Garon spotlighted the inadequacies in the current system, particularly highlighting the challenges at Mirabel Airport in Montreal.

He commented: “Canadian airport firefighters can hose down a plane from the outside, but they are not allowed to go inside the plane.

“To be able to intervene in an aircraft, they need to have completed 333 hours of training.

“Municipal firefighters do not have this training, and they cannot get there in time. They lack the necessary resources.”

It’s worth noting that while the NDP has expressed their endorsement for the motion, the Conservative Party, while supporting its intent, emphasizes the importance of committee review.

FSJA Comment

The move by the IAFF to advocate for improved airport firefighting regulations in Canada highlights a critical area of public safety that demands attention.

With the evident disparities between current Canadian standards and those of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the potential risks for passengers, flight crews, and on-ground personnel are evident.

By pushing for regulations that ensure quick, efficient, and trained response during aircraft emergencies, the IAFF is championing a cause that could have a profound impact on saving lives in the future.

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