Fire destroys plane at former Rantoul museum

Fire destroys plane at former Rantoul museum

RANTOUL — Rantoul Fire Department Capt. Dewey Shreves remembers training for aircraft fires at the former Chanute Air Force Base many years ago.

Twenty-five years after the base closed, he and other members of the department got to put that training into practice Monday morning.

Fire engulfed a C-47 plane on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Museum that was being dismantled by a salvage crew.

Fire Chief Ken Waters said the plane was a total loss.

“It was fully involved when they got there,” Waters said.

Firefighters were on the scene for about an hour after receiving the 9:22 a.m. call.

Shreves said the training the department received in fighting airplane fires was valuable in putting out the blaze.

“There’s a lot of magnesium in those planes,” Shreves said. “It’s mostly aluminum, copper and steel,” but the presence of magnesium means a fire can’t be put out using just water.

Waters said a 6 percent mixture of foam and water has to be used.

“If you use water only, it flares up because it’s magnesium,” said Waters, who was also part of that training when the base used to be open.

“In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Chanute Air Base Fire Training Command conducted joint training exercises with the Rantoul Fire Department on aircraft fire suppressions so that we could provide mutual aid to them in the event of an aircraft fire,” Shreves said. “Today, 25 years after they left, we used that training to put out a fire on one of their aircraft.”

Shreves said it was the first time there has been an aircraft fire on the former base.

The C-47 is the military version of a DC-3, according to Corky Vericker, Rantoul airport office supervisor.

“There had to be some fuel residue that was left inside (the plane),” Vericker said. “The acetylene torch ignited it. Everything on the inside is so old and rotten ... that it just don’t take much for it to ignite.”

Allen Jones Sr., former air museum operations manager, said the plane was one of “seven or eight” that are being cut up for salvage, as contracted by the Air Force.

The salvage operator said he lost $2,000 as a result of the fire, Waters said.  

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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