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Home : News : News
NEWS | May 31, 2019

Firefighters support JBSA-Kelly Field flightline

By Mary Nell Sanchez 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

There is a unique fire station at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland that protects more than buildings. Firefighters at Station No. 2 aren’t like some of their counterparts; they stand by to combat an array of potential threats to the flightline and its operations.

The firefighter’s support is crucial; without it, the flightline is not able to operate for safety reasons and aircraft would not be able to take off or land. 

They respond to emergencies with the C-5M Super Galaxy and F-16 Fighting Falcon, along with commercial airlines and small airplanes that uses the runway at JBSA-Lackland. They respond to calls for in-flight emergencies as well as ground emergencies.

A ground emergency could be the maintenance crew working on the aircraft and a fire starts, said Michael Guzman, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron deputy chief of fire emergency services.

Another example would be a fuel leak, which is the result of a line severed within an aircraft. In such a case, anywhere from 20 to 25 firefighters from JBSA – armed with the tools needed to deal with the emergency – will respond to the call.

“Each truck carries anywhere from 3,000 to 3,300 gallons of water and 500 gallons of foam,” Guzman said.

The foam is similar to a very heavy dishwashing detergent and suffocates fire by removing oxygen. The water is a cooling agent, so when the heat and oxygen is removed, the fire goes out, Guzman said.

Because Station No. 2 serves aircraft, they are equipped with special fire trucks that feature water guns positioned on top of the engine that can supply high-pressure water sprays, depending on the fire intensity. The water supply to fight fires comes from other JBSA stations’ crash trucks and each truck carries approximately 2,000 gallons of water.

While firefighters don’t often answer calls for aircraft incidents or fuel spills, everything around the flightline offers its own set of challenges, Nunez said.

Those challenges can include grass, structure or car fires. They also support aircraft hangars, tanks, facilities and fuel supplies. The fuel can be particularly concerning because each fuel storage tank holds about a million gallons of fuel, which is highly flammable.

Whenever there’s an emergency, these challenges have a domino effect.

“If you have a fire in a hangar, the aircraft becomes involved,” Guzman said. “Then it’s all hands on board, especially with the C-5M; all of our stations at JBSA respond.”

The C-5M is difficult to handle when there is a fire because it is the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory.

 “When bigger aircraft are involved, you use much more water,” said Frank Rhoades, 902nd CES station chief of fire emergency services. “You use several thousand gallons of water and probably several thousand gallons of foam.”

Firefighters are trained to perform a range of services that could save lives, machinery and property.

While each call is different, making sure each fire station is providing support in any situation is key. JBSA firefighters share a positive relationship with area firefighting agencies through the P4 (public-public, public-private) initiative; a community partnership between JBSA, city, county and businesses to provide, receive or share installation support.  The initiative also allows support services for municipal, morale, welfare and recreation functions.

These partnerships are essential to keeping the flightline area safe, Guzman said.

“When we have an incident, we’re familiar with each other; we’ve trained together and worked with each other and we know each other’s face,” Guzman added.

Exercises are conducted several times a year with local partners. JBSA firefighters also conduct its own training throughout the year to learn new techniques and sharpen skills. They include structural, structure fire, firefighting, aircraft, rescue, confined space and hazardous materials exercises.

“Our training teaches us how to be safe and use risk management to make good decisions,” Guzman said.

Between daily emergency responses, training exercises and keeping area partnerships intact, a firefighter must always be ready for anything.

“You learn that in your job there’s always a possibility that you won’t go home the next day,” Guzman said. “We want to make sure that when something happens, we are prepared.”