Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
The Fort Leavenworth Fire Department concluded its annual aircraft fire safety training on March 23 with live-fire scenarios at Sherman Army Airfield.
Deputy Fire Chief Christian Howell said it is very important to keep the firefighters proficient in the firefighting skills required to successfully eliminate aircraft fires.
“Firefighters from post and other communities attended classroom training modules followed by this hands-on firefighting class at the airfield,” Howell said. “This type of training allows us to work using our equipment and operating procedures. It also allows us to train with other departments.”
All firefighters on post from the various work shifts were able to accomplish the training over three days.
“The refresher training is both cognitive and physical,” said Edgar Guerra, assistant chief of training at the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department. “The classroom portion covers tactics, strategies, hazards, safety procedures and the entire spectrum of aircraft rescue firefighting. And, we finish with the hands-on training. Both are important because these skills naturally degrade.”
Tyler Clemons served in the Air Force as a fire protection specialist for six years. He is a new firefighter with the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department and expressed his appreciation of the training. Clemons said the hands-on training would require use of straight stream and fog patterns from the fire hose.
“Very informative classroom training prepared us for the types of situations we can confront when responding to aircraft fires,” Clemons said. “In addition to being more physically demanding, the hands-on portion requires more situational awareness due to the fact we are actually dealing with a fire.”
Guerra said firefighters use the Mobile Aircraft Rescue Firefighting Trainer to provide the hands-on portion of the training. Personnel from the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute operate the trainer. He said it is capable of producing a wide range of realistic training scenarios and uses a simulated aircraft fuselage to train the aircraft rescue firefighters.
“The trainer simulates the most likely types of aircraft fires we confront — interior in the passenger, cargo and cockpit areas (as well as) exterior, such as engines, wheels and those caused by fuel spills,” Guerra said.
Guerra said safety features are built into the course and equipment to provide the greatest possible protection to firefighters during the live-fire training.
“This trainer has kill switches here in the control booth and inside the aircraft itself,” Guerra said. “Training can be halted instantly from the switches if something should go wrong.”
Noting the wind gusts, Guerra said the use of propane was a safety consideration as well because it evaporates quickly.
“Firefighters are trained in the proper application of the fire streams in order to ensure the best result using the hoses,” Guerra said. “We will often use foam when fighting aircraft fires, and it is important to know the proper application process.”
Page 2 of 2 - According to Guerra, in addition to the 40 firefighters from post, 15 firefighters from the city of Leavenworth and three firefighters from Arkansas participated in the three days of training.
“The goal (of the training is to stay current on best tactics and strategies in order to provide the best service to our community,” said Christopher Bender, assistant chief of operations at the Fort Leavenworth Fire Department. “The most important aspect of this particular training is this hands-on module because it reinforces the necessity of our firefighters to work as a team.”
Sherman Army Airfield consists of one active runway, two military hangars, aircraft parking area and a civilian fixed base operation. The Flying Activity offers flight training and instruction. There are no military aircraft stationed at the airfield.
“This type of training is also important to our community because we are at a higher risk than other airports because we have two flight schools here,” Guerra said. “And, we have nearly 30 privately owned and maintained aircraft here.”
Guerra said egress is the most important thing for people to do if they find themselves in an aircraft fire.
“After getting out of an aircraft that is on fire, the next most important thing is accountability,” Guerra said. “Accountability lets responders know if there could be someone inside.”