State-of-the-Art Pest Controls at Fresno Airport

Before they ever reach the sign that reads "Bienvenidos a Fresno," travelers on Mexicana Airlines will get a thorough screening that has as much to do with bugs as it does with drugs or other contraband.

Roxanne Hercules, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, said the staff at the Fresno inspection station will have four officers from that agency, another two agriculture officers, including a canine specialist, and a supervisor.

Widmar said a dog, en route from Hawaii to Fresno, has been trained to sniff out out fruits, vegetables, flowers and meat in suitcases and other baggage.

That dog will be brought into the area where checked luggage already has passed through X-ray machines and where passengers gather with their carry-on luggage after being cleared through a primary processing area where they show passports and other travel documents.

All hand-carried luggage is also X-rayed, Hercules said.

She said agricultural officers examine the emptied plane thoroughly, picking up trash for proper disposal. Trash is also taken from amnesty bins and placed into a steam sterilization system that reaches 212 degrees.

The inspection facility is a modular steel building of about 11,000 square feet erected starting in mid-February.

Its cost, including equipment it houses, was about $3.75 million, Widmar said, all of it paid by the city's Department of Airports.

The building includes three detention areas, basically cells that have benches and a commode -- for women, men and juveniles. There is also a padded "search room."

Widmar said the cost of salaries for inspectors at the facility will range from $1.2 million to $1.3 million annually.

He said the building "is intended to have a life of 10 years."

"But it's so well-constructed, we will have it a lot longer," Widmar said, adding that recent rain storms have tested its roof. "I don't know of many new buildings that don't have a leak. This one didn't."

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