All fired up: Base firefighters smother flames during training exercise
By Airman 1st Class Jessica Lockoski , 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2007
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Team McConnell's Airmen, brave enough to take the heat of a raging fire, had an opportunity last week to fire it up when they held an aircraft live-fire training exercise June 11.
This exercise was extra special because the Air National Guard had the opportunity to participate with them.
The fire department is only required to conduct them twice per year, but these fire exercises are done quarterly at McConnell to keep the firefighters here well trained and on their toes.
They wait their turns to fight in groups against a burning simulator that is designed to resemble an aircraft vessel. The propane-fueled, mach plane is ignited to simulate crash scenarios and fuel explosions.
In real situations, firefighters can be physically and mentally tested. Their goal is to gain improvement and proficiency working as a cohesive team, to solve potential problems with quick response through radio communication and other skills covered in daily safety briefs and video training at the station.
"They do not have the hands-on application to fight fires on a steady basis, which is why we have a lot of classroom instruction," said Chief Edward Sanchez the director of training at the fire station.
"The safety of the firefighters is essential," he said. "They can run the risk of possible injury from steam and falling debris, and it is paramount that Airmen are briefed thoroughly before the exercise.
Live-fire training can reduce the number of injuries and deaths of firefighters when they combat real emergency situations. With more hands-on training, fighting fires with different case-scenarios available to the department can reduce property loss and mission interruption resulting from a fire.
Not to be mistaken for extra terrestrials, four firefighters geared with high-tech silver proximity suits, huddle together and line on one side of the hose, inching inside the burning fuselage from off of the simulation's wingside. They run through this exercise until they all take turns inside the plane.
They maneuver within the plane conducting an inside attack, until all of the fire that is left but smoke that barrels off the hot metal interior. They also focus on putting out the under stairs battery of the fuselage and the area inside the cockpit.
A team of officials monitor the pit from a control tower. This is where they control the condition of the mach area and have the ability to shut down operations in case of an emergency. They also control the intensity of the blaze.
"It was a great run-through. We worked with a big group, and no one was injured," said Airmen 1st Class Alex Smith. This is Airmen Smith's first training exercise since his arrival from technical training to McConnell in March.
"We mostly get structural calls (emergencies) at the department, but it is impressive to get practice on an aircraft structure like this because quick response to flightline emergencies can further help us protect our resources and people. Working with experienced prior-service civilians and the National Guard gives me an opportunity to learn even more out here besides in the class room," Airmen Smith said.
The Airmen said he looks forward to future exercises.
The fire department not only practices aircraft egress training but structural training, human rescue and auto exercises, and chemical and hazardous material training.
So far this year, there have been no reported fires at McConnell. However, the training the department receives each day has helped them respond four fire emergencies in the local surrounding communities.