Firefighters receive unique training opportunity
By Lance Cpl. Henry J. Antenor
| Marine Corps Installations Pacific | May 09, 2013
Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan --
As smoke and flames fill the air from a replicated aircraft fuselage, firefighters work hastily to quench the fire and enter the burnt hull to thoroughly extinguish any remaining flames.
Marines assigned to aircraft rescue and firefighting, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, partnered with their civilian counterparts of MCIPAC Fire and Emergency Services to participate in a mobile aircraft fire training device exercise at the Camp Hansen Joint Training Facility May 2.
Fire and Emergency Services rarely train using the MAFTD since the firefighters typically battle structural fires and train using a burn tower, which is similar to the MAFTD, according to Tetsuya Kudeken, southern battalion chief with MCIPAC FES at Camp Kinser.
Firefighters with both organizations are required to train using live-fire facilities to provide efficient emergency response. Firefighters use the MAFTD to create controlled burns in the training fuselage.
The flames, coupled with smoke machines and audio devices, create a true sense of an actual fire, said Cpl. John R. Blalock, an aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist with ARFF. “It is equipped with eleven different fire scenarios, such as airframe, cockpit, cargo, engine, wheel and ceiling light fires.”
During an actual emergency, time is precious and rescuers know their attention to detail during training will pay dividends when responding to real-world emergencies.
Prior to training with the device, Marines with ARFF provided a period of instruction on how to properly respond to a fuselage blaze.
At the beginning of the response scenario, FES firefighters drove to the mishap site and began the process of identifying a starting point, explained Cpl. Brett A. Penny, an aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist with ARFF. “The decision to identify a location to begin fighting the fire is based on wind direction and fire location,” he said. “Then they don their gear and battle the blaze.”
In order to combat the heated chassis and raging flames, FES firefighters team up in groups of four. Two men direct two hoses while a third man ensures they have enough slack to move about freely and battle the fire safely. The group’s movements are coordinated by the fourth firefighter who leads the team, according to Blalock.
Techniques for battling fuselage fires are different than those used when the FES firefighters battle structural fires.
Firefighters assigned to ARFF have to be mindful of how they extinguish aircraft fires because parts may still be salvageable. Additionally, the composite materials used to construct the aircraft react differently to various firefighting techniques, according to Gunnery Sgt. Kadorn D. Phuorng, an aircraft rescue and firefighting specialist with ARFF.
Once the firefighters extinguished the external flames, they entered through one of the doors to contest the inferno inside. Afterward, firefighters spray their hoses from the interior of the fuselage through the doorway to force out toxic fumes.
“The fire from the MAFTD was hot and felt very real,” said Anthony Toguchi, a firefighter with MCIPAC FES. “The smoke was blinding and made it hard to see where you were going, which is good because in a real fire, sight is not always available.”
The firefighters enjoyed the training opportunity and know their paths could cross during an emergency situation, according to Phuorng.
“We try to understand each other as best we can, so we can work together to get the job done, which is putting out fires and saving lives,” said Phuorng.