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August 3, 2012

How does a firefighter train to stop a fire?

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Airman 1st Class Saphfire Cook
355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Gerald Roybal, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, acts as the safety while Senior Airman Spencer Snodgrass, 355th CES firefighter, adds fuel to the fire during a training session at the D-M Regional Fire and Emergency Services Training Area on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., July 17, 2012. The Senior Airmen, along with a third firefighter, were part of the lighting team tasked with setting fire to a mock A-10 during a training session.

How does a firefighter train to stop a fire? This isn’t a trick question or the beginning of a bad joke. The question is real and the answer is simple: they have to start a fire and practice putting it out. On D-M, the Fire Department uses the D-M Regional Fire and Emergency Services Training Area to ensure that their Airmen are certified and prepared any time they are called to duty.

The almost five acre training ground houses mock aircraft, a simulated roof, buildings with different layouts and a vehicle extraction pad.

“This training area is a standard resource that we can use to ensure that the basic skills we’ve learned are maintained and enhanced,” said Master Sgt. Cameron Engleman, 355th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire and Emergency Services Flight superintendent.

As D-M’s mission is A-10 driven, one of the aircraft models is the frame of an A-10. The frame is constructed from metal, and the fire department routinely sets it ablaze in order to hone their aircraft fire skills.

“Everything is happening in a controlled environment so that way, they are less likely to panic,” Engleman said. “By the time their certified for real world tasks, they’ve basically come into contact with almost everything they’ll face in their career as a firefighter.”

The practice fires can be gas or propane driven. Aircraft fires are usually started with JP8, which is the actual fuel that is used in A-10s.

“During an actual fire is not the time to train,” said Senior Airman Kyle Woods, 355th CES FESF driver operator. “The training area helps new Airmen get a realistic feel of what an aircraft or structural fire is like. It helps ensure that everyone going out on a real-world call will be up to par and ready to complete the task at hand.”

Davis-Monthan Airmen are not the only firefighters to train on the course. In 2011, more than 400 firefighter, including members of the Arizona National Guard and civilian counterparts throughout Southern Arizona, were trained on the site. Around 640 certifications were earned.

“I think one of the biggest advantages that we have is partnering with our local state and federal firefighters,” Engleman said. “Being able to see how each individual team works and then being able to bring that in together and seeing the unit cohesion of all the different factions is a major plus. And we make that happen here at least once a month.”

Whether participating in joint training or just running through the basics with their squadron, the D-M fire department uses the training area and they use it hard.

“We’re usually out there from roughly eight or nine o’clock until one to two o’clock,” Engleman said. Sometimes that’s working through lunch and sometimes that’s breaking for lunch and then going back out there. And what that does is it allows rotations of crews to go in there and get their objectives met.”

With hard work comes rewards and notoriety. The D-M fire department was the proud recipient of the 2011 Air Combat Command Medium Fire Department of the Year award.

“When you have a good team around you, you are able to do bigger and better things,” Engleman said. “This is by far the best team I’ve been a part of in my 16-year career.”




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