The alarm sounds about once or twice a day, usually as an Alert 2, the lowest level. An Alert 2 indicates a potential aircraft problem such as a sensor showing a faulty hydraulic system or a compartment door that didn't shut.
Alert 3s are the real deal, a full-on emergency, and months go by without one. The tower usually determines whether an alert is a 2 or a 3, though a pilot can also make that determination.
But even an Alert 2 can be cause for concern; for instance, when a sensor detects a problem and the pilot circles the plane, full of fuel, back to the airport, landing "heavy," Wick calls it, which in turn causes the brakes to overheat.
"That's probably our No. 1 call," Wick says. "They come in hot and fast. They have not used up all their fuel so they're hard to stop."
In most cases, firefighters will circle the plane after it has landed and use an infrared temperature device to detect abnormal heat sources. Black is OK. White is hotter.
Because crashes are rare — the last commercial crash at LAX killed 34 in 1991 — the 14 firefighters on duty at Fire Station 80 use an edge-of-the-airport training area to practice live burns and strategies.
One February morning, they gather to study the video of a 737 exploding into flames after landing on Okinawa in 2007, an Alert 3 situation that would probably require additional off-airport firefighters. Four people were injured in that explosion.
Wick's crew studies the video for wind direction, whether smoke is coming out the door, whether the pilot — the last to leave a plane — has abandoned it. Then they head out to their training area, where they put what they've learned to use, blasting water at a makeshift fuselage in what they call a "pump-and-roll" tactic in which the rigs move around the wreckage as they hit it with water.
On the way back to the fire station, Wick spots one of the new A380s that land about four times a day.
"How are we going to get 800 people out of that plane?" Wick asks. "See those three doors on top? We can't get to that."
LAX, which just approved the purchase of four new fire trucks, is in the process of ordering a stair truck, Wick says. At present, a cost analysis is being done on the stair trucks, which must be custom made.
"They get it," he says. "They know we really need that thing."
And like the many passengers he protects, Wick waits.