Miami Airport’s Fire Chief On Technology: “40 Million Passengers A Year, It’s A City”

airport fire department at miami international airport

Emergency training drill at Miami International Airport

In the little known world of airport firefighting, the intensity of exploding gas, heart attacks, and tarmac crashes are an everyday occurrence. In fact, The Miami Dade Fire Rescue’s Aviation Division responded to 8,000 calls last year alone. These local heroes deserve our utmost thanks and respect.

Not only is the department incredibly active, they are also on the cutting edge of new technology that saves lives. As we reported last week, Miami Dade recently spent 3 million dollars on four new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Vehicles.

See Also: Miami Airport’s New High Tech Fire Fighting Vehicles: WIFI, Thermal Imaging, and A Stinger That Can Punch Through Steel

These battle tankers are equipped to dispense massive amounts of high intensity water dispersals along with a fire retarding chemical foam agent. They speed at 65 miles per hour, they are equipped with a crane arm and nozzle that can puncture steel, and they are guided by airport-specialized software that uses GPS conformed to site-specific maps. The truck’s software processes emergency routing algorithms, warning systems to dodge vehicular and human obstacles, communications technology between trucks to implement field strategy on the fly, and infra red FLIR imaging cameras. 

  • Miami ARFF
  • Miami ARFF

 So here at Pacific 54, we were curious and decided to find out more about life-safety technology in Miami by speaking to Airport Fire Department Chief Stephen Kilby, who oversees it, and the manager of the company that develops the software for it.

Check out the following interviews for a sneak peek behind the curtains of an Airport Fire Department..

Miami Dade Fire Rescue Aviation Division Chief Stephen Kilby Interview

airport fire department

Image via Travel Channel


Pacific54: How do you like the new ARFF vehicles?

Chief Kilby: They are amazing state of the art vehicles. We’re safe. And we’re very happy to have them here.

What is your favorite feature?
I think the new technology for the piece that penetrates the fuselage, the “Stinger” at the end of the HRET (High Reach Extendable Turret), that’s the coolest thing.

Pacific54: How does new technology help our fire department do its job more effectively?

Chief Kilby: Well, with the advent of the new airplanes such as the Airbus 380, there were concerns about having the reach to get into them. Now, we can reach any point on that aircraft. 

What type of technology would you like to see that hasn’t been invented yet?
The truck we have now does everything but give you a back rub. I can’t think of anything that would be better unless it actually did give you a back rub. From the chassis, to the way it’s built to withstand all kind of terrain and debris, to how we can run over a six inch curb going 40 miles an hour, to how sleek and safe it is, right now we’re state of the art.

How do you like the collaborative working between Miami Dade Fire Rescue, the Minnesota based truck manufacturer Rosenbauer, and the Canadian technology software that drives it?
That definitely presented some issues….difficulties with getting the equipment down here, but overall it was a very smooth transaction. The trucks were built and delivered on time, and it was pretty amazing to collaborate like that and make it come together.

airport fire department

What type of training do fire fighters have to go through to man these vehicles? I read the manual and, it’s not easy….
You’re not driving on a regular street, you’re on aircraft operations areas, crossing runways; and on the tarmac, there’s always people, aircraft, luggage carts, all kinds of things always around. The challenge isn’t just driving the vehicle itself, with all its capabilities, but also maintaining situational awareness of where you are at all times.

I didn’t even know the Airport Fire Department existed, and I don’t think most people do either… 
It’s part of Miami Dade Fire Rescue. We are the MDFR, but we work with the Miami Dade Aviation Department through a memo of understanding, and we have our own Airport Fire Station.

Your website says you responded to 8,000 calls last year?
We get everything from aircraft emergencies, to medical emergencies, situations at the terminal, car accidents on site. There was the huge bus crash that happened a year ago December.


It’s like a small city….Not even a small city. We’re moving 40 million passengers a year. We’re pushing more than 100,000 travelers a day. And we have all the situations that happen in a city.


Sound intense…
The intensity is, yes, that’s why we have to maintain our training. 

What is the most intense situation you have been in?
The most intense thing was when the airport tanks caught fire. I wasn’t Chief yet at the time, but the airport’s fuel tanks caught fire. There was a big fire at the fuel storage facility where they store all the fuel for the airport. That was in March of 2011.

Wow. You are all heroes, thanks for your service.
Thanks. We stay busy that’s for sure.

Check out these amazing images of Miami Dade Fire Rescue training at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport’s “Burn Pit” in 2008. Photography by Ben Saladino.

Be sure to follow Miami Dade Fire Rescue on Facebook and Twitter

Also be sure to follow Miami International Airport on Facebook and Twitter 

And make sure to check out the ARFF’s manufacturer, Rosenbauer America at their website, and on Facebook

Finally, be sure to check out the Team Eagle website, they are the ARFF’s software provider.


Miami’s new Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting ARFF vehicles are stocked with global positioning, map, and data retrieval software systems created by a Canadian company called Team Eagle. We here at Pacific54 spoke to Team Eagle’s General Manager and COO about the technology solutions they produce for the airport industry. Here is what Paul has to say about RFID, GPS refresh rates, and overcoming obstacles.

Paul Cudmore General Manager/COO at Team Eagle Ltd. Interview

Paul Cudmore, COO at Team Eagle


Pacific54: How many airports have you worked with in Florida?

Paul Cudmore: Ft Lauderdale is a user, and then Orlando is possibly coming online. We have Miami, where we’re still doing training, and we have some work to do at Titusville.

How did you come up with the business?
It was basically because of the work done by the FAA in their circular that they issue, the FAA Advisory, to specify what the firetrucks needed. There was a need for this technology and so we started to develop it ten or twelve years ago. We’ve just evolved it since then and are continually making it better and better.

What do you have that’s new?
We just introduced the Precision GPS Antenna Receiver that’s on the Miami trucks. The accuracy is down to plus or minus 24 inches and the refresh rate is ten times per second. It used to be ten foot accuracy with a once per second refresh rate, so now we’re refreshing much more frequently at much better accuracy.

 Was your technology developed in house? 

We developed our own GIS. It’s like Google Maps, but specialized for an airport environment.

What are the intricacies of it?
There are a lot of intricacies in terms of routing and moving place to place along some of the same routes that air traffic control uses. It all has to be recognized by the software. There’s so much safety and warning systems that need to be considered in building an airport specific tool.


What is your business background?
My background is general management within technology and I’ve been working with airports for about ten years now.

What type of networking does the software use between trucks?
Some use cellular and some use wifi, we can integrate with whatever systems are in place. And we follow all FAA guidelines, that’s a requirement within the advisory circular

Does the onboard library come pre stocked, or do you create a functionality for the user to upload their own data?
Basically, we create a library functionality and then they can load their own airport specific data, PDF, or word docs.

Are you doing anything to integrate RFID into your Eagle Eye system?
Not yet, but that’s something we’re keeping our eyes on because we’re seeing it used more and more in airports.

Are you adapting the technology for any other industries?
We tend to concentrate all of our efforts on airports.

It’s fascinating technology, thanks for taking the time to talk about it.
No problem, I appreciate your taking the time to ask about it.