By Senior Airman April Bachler, 139th Airlift Wing
/ Published October 19, 2010
SAINT JOSEPH, MO. -- Smoke rolls out of the munitions building. A radio call reports that one Airman is missing. The 139th Fire Department suits up and heads out.
Members of the 139th Fire Department participated in a fire response simulation exercise at the munitions building located north of the Missouri Air National Guard Airbase Oct.16 as part of their semi-annual training.
In preparation, a munitions response class and a briefing were given prior to the exercise covering the different types of munitions and explosive classifications codes as well as special tactics and proper radio behavior to ensure all fire fighters are familiar with hazard and safety procedures in an explosives firefighting situation.
"Each exercise we do, we change it up a bit," said Senior Master Sgt. Brian R. Jansen, the base fire chief of the 139th Fire Department. "Our scenarios depict different classes of munitions and those various classes dictate our emergency response procedures."
Jansen said weapon fires are among the most feared of all fires because of their potential detonation. Since heat is a great hazard around explosives, every effort is made to maintain normal temperatures around the munitions by shielding it with a water fog or curtain while extinguishing the fire simultaneously.
"In emergency situations such as this, our main objective is to ensure the safety of base personnel and emergency responders," said Jansen.
As the exercise unfolded, six emergency vehicles carrying 11 firefighters arrived to control the simulated fire and locate the missing Airman. The acting incident commander directed the teams after making a thorough assessment of the situation. Some firefighters aimed water lines to heavy smoke areas while the others prepared to dump massive quantities of water on the building for exposure protection.
Two firefighters lowered themselves to their knees as they entered the building using a right-hand search pattern, which allowed them to find their way out from the blinding smoke. The central part of the fire was found and extinguished.
Meanwhile, another team searched for the missing Airman who was found unconscious in another part of the building.
When a single alarm went off, everyone looked for its source. The personal accountability alarm, that every firefighter wears, notifies the team that a member is incapacitated.
The alarm triggers a search and rescue. In this case, a firefighter had been standing still too long.
"Being a firefighter is physically and mentally demanding," said Jansen.