CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team is uncovering the story behind smoke and flames that alarmed people driving past Cleveland Hopkins International Airport on Tuesday, 9/11, the anniversary of deadly terrorist attacks tied to airports and hijacked planes.
Ken Neuzil recorded cell phone video. He said, "I was driving by the airport on the Berea Freeway when I saw that large plume of smoke. I knew I could access the back of the runway. I saw a plane sitting there on the tarmac and firefighters in their suits.” He added, “Anytime you see flames in an airport, you wonder what's going on there."
He turned to the I-Team to investigate, and we found the fire was part of training for airport emergency crews. But that’s only part of the story.
Why have that kind of training on September 11th, a day connected to airport danger and terrorism?
We found the airport had put out a brief alert about training on Twitter. But what if you don’t check Twitter, or follow the airport?
Some travelers we met wondered the same thing we did.
Dave Amerine said, "Having been responsible for a lot of training in my industry when I was working, I would have picked a different day."
The I-Team first asked about this on 9/11. An airport spokesperson emailed back saying fire crews would soon be having an annual disaster drill, and they had the equipment to practice with all week. However, that didn't explain if anyone even considered the impact of flames at the airport on 9/11.
So, Wednesday, we investigated. We contacted airport officials and City Hall multiple times.
In fact, on Wednesday, we also saw the same kind of training happening again with brilliant flames and rescue equipment and planes taking off overhead.
In the end, the city said we have to wait to ask questions about this until the airport holds its big disaster drill on Friday. We received no definitive explanation why no one from the city or the airport could address this before then.
Whatever the city says, there’s no convincing Ken Neuzil that training with fire near the runway is a good idea on 9/11.
He said, "It’s kind of a solemn, memorial day to show respect."