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NEWS | April 19, 2021

JBSA FES trains with local fire departments

By Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Joint Base San Antonio's 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services participated in a multi-agency training with Schertz Fire Rescue and Cibolo Fire Department April 12, 14, and 16, at a fire training facility at JBSA-Randolph. 

The training helped provide consistency in the techniques used by JBSA firefighters and members of both community fire departments since all three departments fall under a mutual-aid agreement. 

“This means that when we need assistance, we have the ability to call for help from on-base firefighters,” said Tom Hollick, Schertz Fire Rescue lieutenant and lead instructor. “Essentially, when we respond to emergencies, we have to act as one department. The importance of being on the same page cannot be understated.” 

Schertz Fire Rescue led the training, which focused on the rescue tactic of Vent Enter Search, where a firefighter gains access from an exterior area of a structure to carry out a targeted search for victims. 

“When called to a structure fire, the primary drive for any fire department is the rescue of those that may be trapped inside the building,” Hollick said. 

In the morning of training each day, participants were taught how to throw ground ladders, take out exterior windows, enter from a ladder into a window, use search techniques once inside, bring victims down a ladder, and properly perform victim drags. 

In the afternoon, firefighters were put through live-fire, full-scale scenarios based on real-world rescues from around the U.S. 

The first day of training included six JBSA firefighters from different installations, with new members rotating in on the remaining days of training. 

“The reason for the training being held at JBSA-Randolph is the facility on base,” said Harry Hewlett, Schertz Fire Rescue battalion chief. “This training facility provides the ability to simulate the response to a residential house fire, while also being able to show the firefighters real-world conditions. The amazing facility on JBSA-Randolph has a Class-A burn room.” 

While training occurs regularly with all departments, Hewlett said this specific training happens once a year, with an intent to happen more often. 

“This training is very important for the participants as we have seen a decrease in structure fires throughout the U.S.,” Hollick said. “With the decrease in fires, it is important for firefighters to hone their skills in the most realistic conditions we can provide.” 

“Without cooperation from all the agencies, this would not have been possible,” Hewlett said. “The city of Schertz and Cibolo fire departments would like to express our gratitude. This training directly impacts the skills and readiness of our firefighters to respond to the emergencies of our citizens on and off base.” 

The JBSA firefighters also understood the importance of the training and looked forward to future involvement with the departments. 

“The team building that organically occurs during training enables us to operate as a decisive, safe and efficient unit,” said Eric Watkins, JBSA 902nd CES lead firefighter. “I welcome all future training opportunities with Schertz and Cibolo fire departments.” 

The JBSA firefighters continue to respond to real-world emergencies with local departments surrounding each installation. Recently, JBSA-Lackland firefighters responded to a structure fire in Atascosa County to assist with at least nine other fire departments.