Kingsley Field Firefighters practiced a skill that they say they hope they will never need to use; dousing roaring flames engulfing the fuselage of an aircraft, June 9, 2020.
Howard Owens, the 173rd Fighter Wing Assistant Fire Chief, said regulation “requires airport firefighters to perform firefighting on an aircraft mock-up that simulates realistic firefighting conditions.”
Those conditions included flames billowing off the wings and inside the fuselage of a portable aircraft trainer, causing temperatures inside to spike to 1,000-degrees. Firefighters donned protective gear, including fireproof clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus, and walked into the inferno.
Not only did the firefighters partake in the training, but several senior command members took a turn at running the hose line including Col. Jeffrey Edwards, the 173rd Fighter Wing commander.
“An eye opening experiences for non-firefighters,” Owens said, due in part to the required protective gear’s weight—a staggering 90lbs.
Once suited and masked three firefighters, one to man the nozzle and two to help handle the heavy-duty water line approached the blaze, beginning with external fires and working their way into the interior flames, dousing all as they went.
“All participants used handlines to fight engine, wheel well, APU, cockpit and fuselage fires,” Owens said. “The day was long and hot but everyone had a good time.”
Firefighters removed their gear and wiped the sweat from their eyes. The protective equipment keeps them from suffering burns in hot environments, but has the effect of trapping their body heat from heavy exertion. The result is heavy sweating. Training like this helps firefighters understand how their bodies react in the harsh environment, helping them manage heat stress and fatigue should the need arise to fight a real fire.
This is the first time this type of training has occurred on the base in nearly two decades. Typically, Kingsley Field firefighters will travel to active-duty bases including, Travis AFB, Mountain Home AFB or Fairchild AFB, but with COVID-19 were forced to remain on-station.
Owens credits his assistant chief of training, Derek Sherrell, for reaching out to vendors and organizing the training on a short timeframe.