New firefighting vehicle unveiled at Meadows Field

April 21, 2010


Apr. 21--The newest addition to the Kern County Fire Department's array of vehicles looks like something you'd see rumbling across an alien landscape in a science fiction film.

Even its name, the Oshkosh Striker, sounds as if Rambo should be at the wheel battling an army of foes. But it's neither science fiction nor is it suitable for combat. It's the county's latest Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Vehicle, and its purpose is to provide protection to all flights arriving and departing Meadows Field.

A brief display of the vehicle's capabilities was shown to a group of fire department retirees who were invited to Fire Station 62 on Sunnyside Court Tuesday afternoon.

The Striker can unleash a stream of water that can hit a target 200 feet away, or if it's close to whatever's burning it can create a massive plume to cover the surrounding area in water. It has a 50-foot nozzle so that, in the case of aircraft as large as a 747, it can reach any part of the plane.

"We put a lot of time into making sure we got the apparatus we needed to protect Meadows Field," Deputy Fire Chief Mike Cody said.

This is the first Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Vehicle the department has purchased in 22 years, Cody said. It holds 3,000 gallons of water, doubling the amount the previous vehicle contained. The Striker also carries hundreds of gallons of foam and dry chemicals.

The retirees were impressed.

Charley Melton described the vehicle as "mind-boggling" because he remembers what they had to work with in 1959, when the fire department first occupied a station at Meadows Field. Instead of an imposing behemoth like the Striker, they used an old Army truck that was rigged up to shoot foam.

"It's unreal," Melton said of the Striker.

Former Fire Chief Carl Williams, who retired in 1986, said the Striker is used in Los Angeles and he's glad to see Kern County get one. He was impressed that the nozzle extends 50 feet because it enables the driver of the vehicle to put out a blaze while staying at a safe distance.

Funding for the Striker was provided by Federal Aviation Administration grants of $915,000, with a 5 percent match by Meadows Field. Retiree Troy Smith was surprised the department was able to buy the vehicle without burdening taxpayers with the cost.

Smith, who retired as a battalion chief in 1999, said it means a lot to the retirees to be invited to special events that showcase the department's new tools. He said Cody, who works as a liaison between the fire department and its retirees, should be commended for his work.

As for the Striker, Smith said there's no comparison.

"This truck moves us into the modern age," he said.