386th ECES Fire Fighters play hard, train hard
By Staff Sgt. William Banton, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 18, 2017
SOUTHWEST ASIA --
The sun’s scorching heat rains upon the dry and weathered Southwest Asia landscape.
Nearby on a barren patch of terrain, smoke begins bellowing out of the cracks and crevasses of two charred and rusted shipping containers. The containers, which have been attached perpendicularly, are surrounded by a large contingency of 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department fire engines.
Moments later a flurry of activity erupts as firefighters leap into action. Two Airmen firefighters hose down the outside of the containers causing steam to engulf the area. A door opens and a third Airman, surrounded in smoke, calmly but determinedly exits the container, raises his hands and is sprayed with water to help dissipate the heat. Finally, a group of firefighters exit from a second door in the rear, having just battled the blaze.
The 386th ECES Fire Department is conducting its annual live fire training. The training is designed to expose Airmen to active fires in a controlled environment.
“It’s nothing too hard, it’s simple stuff but if you don’t do it every day, you can get complacent,” said Master Sgt. Roland Castro, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department training chief, deployed from the 433rd Civil Engineer Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. “That’s why it is done annually now, to get the exposure to the heat, to get exposure to being in the mask and also working with other personnel.”
The training was a coordinated effort with various units on base to ensure Airmen’s safety was upheld and mission capability was not interrupted.
“Usually you would have a million-dollar structure as a burn building on base, or in the city you would have a specific facility designed for training ; we had to build a makeshift trainer here,” said Tech. Sgt. Chad Blackburn, 386th ECES Fire Department fire inspector, deployed from the 315th Air Wing, Civil Engineer Flight, Joint Base Charleston, S.C.
Castro said the importance of the ability to perform this type of training can’t be underestimated.
“Fires are rare because fire prevention, nowadays, does a great job,” he said. “The civilian side is the same [way] there are not as many house fires [today] because fire prevention is a big thing now.”
The live fire training comes at the heels of National Fire Prevention week. This year’s theme was “Every Second Counts: Plan 2 Ways Out!,” and encourages people to have multiple escape plans in case of emergencies.
“We tried to tailor the theme to the 386 AEW,” said Tech. Sgt. Randle Mitchell, 386th ECES Fire Department assistant chief of fire prevention, deployed from the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. “We came up with events, created an obstacle course and set up a blacked out situation teaching participants how to take a right or left search pattern and how to lead themselves out of a building.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the first NFPW was proclaimed by President Calvin Coolidge in October 1925 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 250 people and destroyed more than 17,400 structures, leaving 100,000 people homeless.
Mitchell said that it’s important to take fire prevention seriously, stay safe and make sure everyone gets home on time.
“A fire is detrimental to the [entire] base,” Mitchell said. “There are places I’ve been with tent cities where all the tents burnt down. That’s how important the tent safety has been for us. It lets people know that this is not like at home where we can move to a new building or rebuild [quickly]. This is a place where we could lose everything.”