• Airfield, firefighters practice response

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  • Christopher Burnett | Staff Writer
    Fort Leavenworth Fire and Emergency Services concluded three days of aircraft training exercises today in coordination with personnel and elements of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
    Fort Leavenworth Fire Department Assistant Chief of Training Edgar Guerra said National Fire Escape Association and Federal Aviation Administration guidelines require the quarterly training. He said authenticity is a fundamental element to the effectiveness of any exercise meeting the fire department’s training objectives.
    “We are required to conduct aircraft exercises four times a year and realism is key to our training,” Guerra said. “We try to support these firefighters with the best equipment and the best hands-on scenario training they possibly can have.”
    Guerra said he coordinated some aspects of the content of the sessions with the managers of Sherman Army Airfield operations and the FMWR Flying Club. He said this coordination helped define any specific or unique training elements at Fort Leavenworth.
    “Airfield operations and the flight instructor give input about the most probable types of incidents we’ll have here, along with the most likely aircraft that would be involved in such an emergency,” Guerra said. “We work from there and come up with the most realistic scenario and added variations to use in our training.”
    Billy Summers, Sherman Army Airfield operations specialist, served as a liaison between the pilot and the emergency responders. He said airfield operations personnel would typically assist with on-scene logistics as well.
    “We monitor the aviation radios and visually look at the situation to get the best assessment possible,” Summers said. “If I have additional operations personnel, they will assist by making sure the gates are open for emergency vehicles and let the responders know the location of the scene.”
    Guerra said the various teams within the fire department have standard operating procedures, which serve as a baseline for emergency procedures related to each aspect of the training.
    “There is a fluidity when you get on an actual emergency scene because each situation is different,” Guerra said. “For this exercise, the firefighters coordinated with airport operations personnel to obtain more information while still en route, and that helped size up the situation once they arrived on the scene.”
    Eric Chambers, FMWR Flying Club manager and chief flight instructor, said he worked with the fire department to develop a realistic training scenario that included a pilot’s perspective. He said he teaches students what information emergency responders might need from them as pilots.
    “The training scenario involves a Cessna 172 undergoing a few variables like coming in for a routine landing, and maybe the pilot accidentally takes the plane off of the runway or the nose gear folds and puts the nose into the dirt, causing a fire,” Chambers said.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This training involves encountering something new each time we do it. The firefighters pick up on the adjustments they need to implement,” Chambers said. “My job is to help come up with the most likely scenario variations they are going to confront at this particular airfield location.”
    Fort Leavenworth Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Allen said the first thing his unit attempted to do during the training scenario was to get as much information in advance as possible before arriving on the scene. He said once they arrived on the scene, the proper execution plan was already in place.
    “Once we get out there, we have a couple of vehicles that can make access,” Allen said. “If we have to stay on the hard pack so trucks don’t get stuck, we stretch lines of hose to bring water to the fire.”
    Guerra said each of the three scheduled days was set up with different training variables. He said the department conducts training over three days to allow members from each shift the opportunity to participate.
    “This particular incident scenario was off of the runway, which is very common and could happen at Sherman Army Airfield,” Guerra said. “There are no hydrants that far away from the hangar to resupply our water.”
    Guerra said department procedures make provisions to bring a portable water supply for such situations. He said the firefighters also used their tanker truck during the training.
    “The guys did a great job today. They came up with solutions and ideas slightly different than I might manage in an emergency, but they worked great,” Guerra said. “The best thing about this group (of firefighters) is that they put forth just as much effort during exercises as they do in a real emergency.”
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