The wailing of a fire engine is a sound no one hopes to hear. It’s the sound of unpredictability and the unknown.
To the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting section at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, it’s the sound of their job.
The Marines need to make sure they’re prepared for any situation, sometimes traveling off base to complete training qualifications. Most recently, ARFF Marines traveled to MCAS Miramar in Miramar, Calif., to practice scenario-specific fires, July 27.
They traveled to a remote area on base, where a replicated airplane hull was placed in the middle of a pit filled with water. Seeing this pit had the Marines buzzing with excitement as they readied themselves to fight an unfamiliar kind of fire, jet fuel fires.
This sort of training opportunity is not available at MCAS Yuma due to the air station having only propane to work with for training. MCAS Miramar has discarded jet fuel reserves.
Being that the air station’s trademark is the AV-8B Harrier, the training provided a possible scenario for ARFF to work with should a jet ever catch fire.
“The theory behind this is that if we can learn to extinguish a fuel fire with water when it is all forced to pool together, it will be much easier when we are attacking a true with fuel specific extinguishers,” said Lance Cpl. Thomas Dunlop, MCAS Yuma ARFF Handline man and a native of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
With the stakes higher in a jet fuel fire, getting training like this helps reinforce the fundamentals of staying low, sweeping with the fire hose and communication, said Lance Cpl. Brandon Craft, MCAS Yuma ARFF turret operator and a native of Saint Marys, Ohio.
The ARFF job field is a small one. Cohesion between the ARFF units is paramount because it makes it easier to work side-by-side and work compatibly once transferred to new units.
These relationships begin at the ARFF schoolhouse and continue during training activities like the one conducted at MCAS Miramar.
“Going there was good because I saw people I knew,” said Craft. “We had a chance to learn new techniques from each other.”
With training complete, both Miramar and Yuma Marines increased their jet fuel fire fighting capabilities.
“You never want to experience it, but you need knowledge on how to fight these fires,” said Craft.
The smell of fuel and fire lingered on the Marines as they were bussed eastward to home and the smell of a job well done. That was not the only thing they left with. Also with the knowledge of keeping ARFF Marines out of harm’s way and focuing on saving lives.