JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas - Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Fire Emergency Services hosted a quarterly live fire training April 11 at the Camp Talon fire training grounds.
The main focal point of the training takes place at night on a large aircraft mock-up, and increases firefighters’ readiness for possible real-life scenarios. The training simulates fire in all parts of the aircraft, including engines, auxiliary power units, batteries, cargo areas and flight decks.
“This training is different because we’re using live fire,” said Tech. Sgt. George Dowling, A Flight chief of operations at JBSA-Randolph FES. “This is important to do because not a lot of these guys get to train with live fire. Any other time they have to work with live fire it’s in a real-world situation. This is the closest we can get to real-world application while in a training environment.
The first time somebody goes up and starts putting water to a fire, a lot of times they’ll want to stay back a little bit, but this trains them to get up and personal with the fire. This helps give them the understanding of how close they really have to get to put out the fire.”
Not only is this training an opportunity for new firefighters to become more confident while fighting fires, but it also gives seasoned Airmen a chance to sharpen their skills and get a head start to the next step in their careers.
“This is education on building these guys up to the next level,” said Dowling. “Our drivers will move up to crew chief, our hand linemen will move up to drivers and so on. It gets them to the next stepping stone so they are prepared when they get promoted.”
For Airman 1st Class Aaron Leal, this was his first time participating in a live fire training like this.
“In tech. school it was similar, but a lot more controlled,” said Leal. “Here the fire gets closer to you and it’s more realistic. In tech school, if there was the slightest discomfort of the flames getting too close, the instructors would cut the fire, versus here, it’s like a real fire and you have to extinguish it fully.”
Although the training is realistic, safety is very important.
“Safety is the biggest priority,” said Dowling. “We’re playing with fire, so everyone has to have their gear on, make sure we do safety checks and buddy checks. We also have safety operators controlling the tower.”
The mock-up uses cleaner-burning and safer propane opposed to diesel or jet fuel, allowing a realistic, but safer training environment.
To keep the environment as safe as possible, communication is also set to a high standard.
“Communication is always a big part,” said Dowling. “Whenever you have something like a fire inside or on an aircraft, everyone is trying to get on the radio, so it helps us practice good communication techniques.”
Along with communication comes teamwork.
“We’re all very close,” said Leal. “It helps to know whoever is next to you, in front, behind you or working on the pump panel is always going to have your back.”
Overall, this training gives firefighters the training and confidence boost they need to face real-life situations and to trust their gear.
“It was a lot hotter than I was anticipating,” said Leal. “It does get really hot in there. We did fires when I was in tech school so I’m used to not being afraid of the flames, but this is much more realistic. Ultimately this helps me trust my gear and equipment so I know I’m not going to get burned.”