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FAA, local casinos help Wendover Airport buy $500K fire truck

WENDOVER — Wendover Airport may not get a lot of commercial traffic, but the Federal Aviation Association wants all smaller airports to have up-to-date emergency equipment in case of disaster.

Thanks to a federal grant and help from local businesses, the airport now has a state-of-the-art fire truck.

Right now, Wendover Airport only has one flight in and out every day, but more flights are being discussed. Five years ago, there were none.

"We've gone from zero to 60,000 passengers a year in that period of time," said Jim Petersen, airport manager.

Airport managers say their old fire truck was nearly two decades old and they really needed a new, up-to-date fire truck. Because of budget woes in Tooele County, where the airport is located, managers weren't sure how they would pay it.

To make these upgrades possible, the FAA provides grant money through its Airport Improvement Program, but the airport has to match some of that money to receive the entire grant. That's why when $50,000 was needed as part of the FAA's grant, casinos in town wanted to help.

"Wendover, Utah, Wendover, Nev., we're all one community," said John Spillman, director of advertising and marketing for Peppermill Resorts.

The airport's brand new, $500,000 fire truck arrived two weeks ago, and Petersen couldn't be happier about it.

"This thing is the cat's meow," he said. "It's got more buttons and switches in there than you know what to do with."

Fortunately, airport firefighter Klansey Bateman knows exactly what to do with them.

"It's got the dry chemicals on it, (because) we need to fight the fires like fuel fires," Bateman said. "It's got foam on it to suppress the flames for rescue if that ever becomes an issue."

Of course, workers at the airport hope all the training and knowledge they're getting with the new piece of equipment is something they will never have to actually use, but accidents do happen at the small airport.

In 2011, four men died when their small plane crashed at the airport. Although the new truck wouldn't have made a difference in that case, one never knows when it might.

"I hope I never do anything other than training, but I'm definitely glad we have it,” Bateman said.