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From Flames to Rescue: Exploring the Challenges Faced by Aircraft Firefighters

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Aircraft firefighters are glamourized by Hollywood but face hazardous and life-threatening challenges in the real world. Rescue training for firefighters must address these challenges to protect the safety and health of the firefighters and the general public.

Canadian Aviation Regulation (CAR) for Aviation Firefighters

Aircraft firefighting training is mandated by the Canadian Aviation Regulation (CAR) under Transport Canada and the responsibility of the Minister of Transport. The training requirements, equipment requirements, and response procedures require stringent polices, guidelines, and certifications.

Unique Challenges Faced by Aircraft Firefighters

Aviation firefighters face some of the challenges aircraft firefighters face on a daily basis, as well as many unique challenges specific to the field:

Rapid Response and Time Sensitivity

Fires of any form require quick and efficient response and an aircraft fire can happen anywhere, on and off the tarmac. With the rapid spread of fire, responders must be able to attend to the incident in a matter of minutes. The situation becomes tricky with aircrafts landing in remote or dense areas such as woods and fields, or even in busy neighbourhoods.

High Flammability of Aircraft Fuel

Working with aircraft fuel presents its own unique challenges due to the hazardous composition of the various types of fuels. Aircraft uses petroleum-based fuels, or synthetic fuel blends which have higher risk regulations than fuel used for ground vehicles.

Aircraft Structures and Systems

At first glance, the aircraft systems and structures can be daunting, confusing, and overwhelming. Response challenges include understanding and being familiar with the design of the aircraft and designated spaces within the cabin.

Confined Spaces and Evacuation

Responding to various sizes of aircraft emergencies presents the challenge of fighting fires within confined spaces to successfully evacuate trapped passengers and crew. These spaces include cockpits, cargo holds, engine compartments, and within the aircraft cabin itself.

Danger of Jet Engine Ingestion 

A firefighter needs to keep their safety in mind when attending a fire, particularly one dealing with the jet engines of an aircraft. The jet engine ingestion is a dangerous situation as the powerful components draw in air which pulls in any object or person within the designated area.

Aviation-Specific Firefighting Tactics 

An aircraft fire presents different challenges than that of a structure fire. The location, extreme temperatures, and adverse weather conditions can increase the risk for passengers, crew, and emergency responders themselves.

Collaboration and Coordination

Aircraft firefighter training must involve learning the importance of working closely with other related industries in responding to an emergency. In coordinating to respond to aircraft fires, various members of medical teams, law enforcement, and airport personnel collaborate. 

Not Having Enough Trained Firefighters

As with many emergency response careers, there is a lack of trained firefighters, especially in the aircraft emergency response industry. It is crucial to provide firefighters with access to the proper training and work opportunities in becoming an aircraft firefighter.

How Can FESTI Help Aircraft Firefighters with ARFF Training?

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) certification is key in becoming an aviation firefighter by completing the ARFF courses.

Based at the country’s largest airport, the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) enables aircraft firefighters to receive active training through certification programs and courses. Real-world experiences are incorporated into every exercise and learning session.

NFPA 1003 IFE Airport Firefighter Professional

The NFPA 1003 IFE Airport Firefighter Professional certification is part of the ARFF training which is designed for all firefighters assigned to aircraft fire and rescue. Under the stipulations of NFPA 1003 and the Canadian Aviation Regulations 323.14, this course focuses on ARFF vehicles, equipment, use of extinguishing agents, and airport familiarization.

ARFF Awareness for Structural Firefighters

ARFF certification courses such as the Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Awareness program is designed for municipal fire departments with a designated airport within the jurisdiction. Response procedures, hazards, positioning apparatus, fire control, and rescue operations are part of the course. It provides an intro to specialized aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles.

Airport Firefighter I.A.W. CARs 323.14

Training for aviation firefighters involves certification of Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) in accordance with Canadian Aviation Regulations 323.14. Of the 11 modules, firefighter safety, fire behaviour, extinguishing agents, personal protective equipment, and communication is incorporated. It covers airport preplan, airport familiarization, aircraft familiarization, apparatus, rescue operations, and strategic and tactical operations.

ARFF Vehicle Service Course and Test

Aviation firefighters will receive the knowledge and certification for the annual service test by the Canadian Aviation Regulation standard 323. This program provides testing requirements, performance criteria, conducts pre-test pump delivery, tests methods and calculations, pressurized agent purging and venting, acceleration test, and brake operation tests.

NFPA 1002 [Chapter 9] – Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator 

Certification and accreditation of the NFPA 1002 Fire Apparatus Driver/Operator involves requirements for personnel responsible for operating the machinery in non-emergency and emergency scenarios.

ARFF Recertification – 1 Day

Current airport firefighters work with Fire Service Instructors for evaluation of the I.A.W. Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) 323.14 Compliant Recertification checklist. Recertification provides simulations and scenarios based on response runs with the vehicle.

ARFF Recertification – 2 Days

In conjunction with the Canadian Aviation Regulations 323.14 (4) Recurrent Training, FESTI offers an ARFF Recertification two-day course. Employed airport firefighters are able to retain their level of proficiency.

Training Facilities Offered at FESTI

FESTI offers an environmentally sustainable location designed with advanced technology and equipment to ensure each type of firefighter receives superb training. The facility holds a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver rating.

As FESTI is located at Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, the training facilities for aircraft firefighters are ideal. From a confined spaces building, a rescue tower, a burn building, an auto extrication area, a machine rescue area, a hazardous training site, a Trans Canada rail car CCPX 911, and a specialized aircraft training mock-up area, firefighters have the best training scenarios.

Ignite Your Career with Our Specialized ARFF Training Courses

Aerial firefighting can be challenging to say the least. FESTI offers world-class training and certification for those fire and emergency service professionals dealing with such challenges. We strive to provide every responder with the knowledge, understanding, and qualifications needed to help protect and save lives.

Contact us today for more information about our specialized courses and programs by filling out this form

How to Reduce Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths and Accidents

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Firefighter accidents unfortunately are part of the risk of becoming a firefighter. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards are followed in Canada under the Office of the Fire Marshall in Ontario. Their findings of firefighter fatalities over the past few decades show that while the equipment and protection measures have improved, the number of deaths and injuries have remained the same.

Recent Firefighter Accidents and Deaths

In Canada, there have been reported firefighter accidents and deaths in every province and territory. Recent incidents involve a Manitoba Wildfire Service member succumbing to his injuries of a live fire and an Alberta volunteer firefighter killed in a vehicle accident while responding to an active blaze.

During the Atlantic Fire Leadership Conference held in the summer 2022, special guest speaker Dr. Robert Krause, a battalion chief from Ohio, presented the findings of his study of 176 line of duty deaths (LODD). His research highlighted that the top reasons of LODD were sub-optimal personnel readiness and inadequate preparation. He stated that the most important lesson is to have overall training for all firefighter personnel.

NFPA Study on Firefighter Deaths by Cause of Injury

The National Fire Protection Association routinely releases information and studies on fire statistics, injuries, and fatalities within the industry. The organization is dedicated to providing updates on fire protection systems, causes of major fires, and other fire-related topics.

The latest NFPA updated study results were released in July 2022. It included data on recent firefighter deaths as a result of injury while on active duty.

Cause of Injury






Rapid fire progress/explosions






Struck by Vehicle






Structural Collapse



Exposure to Electricity



Lost Inside



Exposure to Heat



Ways to Prevent Firefighter Injuries and Fatalities

Firefighter training focuses on preventing injuries and fatalities by teaching the skills and techniques needed for safety. Becoming a firefighter requires a sense of wanting to help people and putting one’s life on the line to help save others.

With the proper training, firefighters learn to respond to active fires and emergency situations with the knowledge and equipment to manage the safety of their fellow chapter members and the public at large.

Training Safety Officer Program

Courses for firefighters do not stop at the end of the class schedule. Firefighters at all levels require specialized ongoing training throughout their careers. While a training safety officer program focuses on the responsibilities of a fire department health and safety officer and/or an incident safety officer, it is necessary for all members to have the right tools.

In-house and on-site training programs are designed to assist career and volunteer firefighters to safeguard personnel safety while making decisions in the best interest of everyone involved.

Taking a Proactive Approach to Fitness

The physical aspect of becoming a firefighter is designed to protect the wellbeing of the firefighter while performing the tasks and duties of the job. Each fire department has its own fitness program/guidelines in accordance with its governing board. In addition to keeping firefighters safe, the physical fitness programs are adopted by departments to reduce the risk of injury and compensation claims.

Using the Right Protective Clothing

Having access and using proper protective clothing, gear, and equipment can reduce the risk of injury and possible death during the fighting of active fires. Firefighters require bunker gear which usually consists of a coat, pants, gloves, helmet, hood, boots, and equipment such as a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). It is crucial that firefighters have the appropriate gear and safety equipment that resists heat stress without inhibiting mobility.

The Importance of Firefighter Training to Prevent On-Duty Injuries and Deaths

Firefighting programs offered at accredited schools and colleges have a responsibility to ensure each graduate has the proper training to prevent on-duty injury and death of themselves and in respect to others. Live fire training is one of the most needed approaches for any form of firefighter training. It is with this type of on-hands situation the firefighter learns to make critical decisions while performing safety measures to stop the dangerous fire.

How FESTI Can Help with Firefighter Training

The Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) offers some of the top accredited programs and firefighter courses in Ontario. We focus on courses, programs, and training certifications to new and current firefighters, emergency personnel, and corporate organizations.

Our NFPA courses are instructed by certified and experienced fire department officials at our main location at Toronto Pearson International Airport. As the country’s largest Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) training source, we are the solution for your search for a “firefighter academy near me”.

Need more reasons?

  • We are part of an active fire department with associated training facilities.
  • We have other college programs use our training facilities.
  • We offer new and updated courses, programs, and training facilities.
  • We employee experienced full-time training staff.
  • We are located in a prime location for training for firefighters and emergency personnel from across Canada and the world.
  • We can offer customized programs in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations of NFPA standards.

Register for a course or program by clicking here and complete the webpage registration. Or for more information about FESTI, contact us today.

How to Become an Airport Firefighter in Toronto

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

An airport firefighter requires rigorous firefighter training specializing in handling fire emergencies in and around the airport as well as rescuing passengers.

To become an airport firefighter, a person must be accountable for responding to fire and medical emergencies that occur within an airport, airplane, and on the grounds. These can include collisions, confined spaces incidents, and responding to hazardous materials emergencies.

Basic Qualifications Required to Become an Airport Firefighter

Firefighter qualifications for working at an airport follow the same basic certifications of traditional firefighting. In addition, airport firefighters have extensive training in learning the workings of an airport, equipment, and airplanes, including airport hazards training.  

Pre-Assessment Guide to Help You Get OFAI Certificates

The Ontario Fire Administration Inc. is a society formed by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs to oversee the regulations and guidelines of the testing process for firefighter candidates.

Firefighter Aptitude and Character Test

The entry-level Firefighter Aptitude and Character Test compromises of tests within two main sections. Both the general aptitude test and the personal characteristics section consist of the necessary critical skills required.

Vision Assessment, Hearing Assessment, and Encapsulated Treadmill Test

The three components of the Vision Assessment, Hearing Assessment, and Encapsulated Treadmill Test follow the guidelines of Chapter Six of NFPA 1582: Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.

Before completing the Firefighter Physical Aptitude Job-Related Tests (FPAT), an airport firefighter is subjected to a pre-appraisal screening. The timed tests comprise of equipment carry/vehicle extrication, charged hose advance, weighted sled pull, forcible entry simulation, victim rescue, and ladder climb.

Firefighter Technical Skills Assessment

For the Firefighter Technical Skills Assessment, there are two sections with three skills, totaling six progressions. Candidates perform 10-metre ladder climb, ropes, knots and tool lift, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) proficiency test, medical skills, roof ventilation, 7-metre ladder raise/ roof ladder deployment, and fine motor skills hose assembly.

FESTI’s Airport Firefighter Training Courses

As a private career college, the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) provides certification courses for all firefighter positions, including those at small and large airports. Courses are conducted at our location at Toronto Pearson International Airport.

NFPA 1001 Level I-II Firefighter Training Program

The 18-week NFPA 1001 Level I-II certification in the Ontario Firefighter Training Program provides hands-on training with fire scenarios, search and rescue situations, auto extrications, and inspections on vehicles and equipment.

Blended/Online NFPA 1001 Level I-II Firefighter Training Program

Using the same academic theory, candidates take the NFPA 1001 Level I-II Firefighter Training Program at-home over a four-month period. The practical portion of the course requires four-week training onsite at FESTI.

Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Awareness Program

The Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Awareness program is a one-day training session for municipal firefighters who respond to a local airport. The training focuses on response procedures, hazards, positioning apparatus, fire control, rescue operations, fire extinguishment, interior firefighting, overhaul, and an introduction to aircraft rescue fire fighting vehicles.

Emergency Medical Responder Course

With the Emergency Responder Course, FETSI offers academic lessons in the skills for patient assessments, interventions, and ongoing care. This course is under the guidelines of the National Occupational Competency Profiles (NOCP) as defined by the Paramedic Association of Canada.

Standard First Aid, Level C CPR and AED (Red Cross)

Standard First Aid and CPR Level C certification provides emergency response skills in regard to first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) under provincial, federal, and territorial guidelines.

Airport Firefighter I.A.W. CARs 323.14

The Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) program is devised under the Canadian Aviation Regulations 323.14. Candidates learn personal protective equipment, airport preplan, firefighter safety, fire behaviour, extinguishing agents, airport familiarization, strategic and tactical operations, communication, apparatus, and rescue operations.

NFPA 1003 IFE Airport Firefighter Professional

The advanced level of Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) program focuses on aircraft fire and rescue under guidelines of the NFPA 1003 and the Canadian Aviation Regulations 323.14. This course entails pre-emergency planning and aircraft familiarization, airport familiarization, and communications.

ARFF Vehicle Service Course and Test

The ARFF Vehicle Service Course and Test is designed under the guidance of the Canadian Aviation Regulation standard 323. Lessons include requirements for testing, service test components, performance criteria, conduct pre-test pump delivery, test methods and calculations, pressurized agent purging and venting, acceleration test, and brake operation test.

Live Fire Training

For firefighter training in Ontario, FESTI’s Live-Fire Rescue Course covers the knowledge and skills needed for scene safety, 360-degree survey, building size-up and profile, primary search, patient removal/drags, carries, and rescues, oriented search, outside/in search, large area search, secondary search, and hose advancement.

Aerodrome Communication

FESTI offers a course on radio procedures with an aerodrome program as directed by Transport Canada. Understanding the proper communication regulations of aerodromes is part of working with a private and public airport.

FESTI’s Training Programs for Existing Airport Firefighters

For certified airport firefighters, FETSI provides ARFF certification courses in relation to aircraft firefighting training. These programs are designed to help existing airport firefighters to keep up on their training while honing their skills.

ARFF Recertification Course 1-Day Training

The aircraft rescue firefighting training programs at FESTI include a one-day training for recertification purposes. It is under the guidelines of the I.A.W. Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) 323.14 Compliant Recertification checklist and CARs 323.14 (4) Recurrent Training requirements.

ARFF Recertification Course 2-Day Training

Ground operations requiring recertification can be established under FESTI’s 2-day ARFF course. The Canadian Aviation Regulations 323.14 (4) Recurrent Training is required to ensure firefighters meet the current standards.

Benefits of Taking Firefighter Training at FESTI

  • Part of an active international airport fire department
  • New programs in modern facilities
  • Full-time trainers with years of experience
  • Programs adhere to the highest standards set by the Canadian Aviation Regulations
  • Accessible location
  • Customized programs

Get Started Now

The Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI) offers training programs for certification at our private career college. If you are ready to join the company of airport firefighters, register today. For current firefighters, please choose one of FESTI’s training courses here.