Joint exercise helps firefighters gain experience

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78 ABW/PA
Base and community firefighters joined together for two days, swapping knowledge and experiences to ensure in the event of an emergency, they are prepared to answer the call.

The Macon Bibb County Fire Department joined the Robins Fire Department for a joint live-fire exercise May 8 and 9 at the Aircraft Rescue Firefighting training facility.

The firefighters joined together in the fire pit training area on Robins to fight a simulated fire involving a medium-size cargo aircraft.

"For them to go inside and feel the heat is very beneficial to them," said Daniel Kelley, a crew chief with the Robins Fire Department.

He explained aircraft fires are typically hotter than structural fires because more liquid fuels are involved.

During the exercise, the firefighters were allowed to not only face the heat, but to test their skills in extinguishing aircraft fires affecting the interior and exterior of the aircraft, including the cockpit, cargo area, engine and auxiliary power units.

"To me this is as realistic as it gets other than real thing," said Sgt. Steven Bryant, a firefighter with Macon Bibb County Fire Department. "We get an opportunity to see what it's going to be like in real life if we ever encounter that situation."

The exercise allowed the firefighters from off base to work with aircraft fires, valuable training not readily available to their department.

"We have guys in there intent on training and wanting to get something out of this training," said Lt. David Mixter, a training officer with the Macon Bibb County Fire Department.

The joint exercise allowed the firefighters to practice advanced firefighting skills, giving them an opportunity to work together in a non-emergency environment.

"It's about interoperability; they know what we do and we know what they do, so when we need to get together to do something, we are ready," said Brian Megonigle, Robins training officer.

The joint exercise is going to be the first of many, agreed representatives from the two departments.

"It opens up a great opportunity, not only today but for many days into the future," Sergeant Bryant said.

The close proximity of the two departments makes sharing resources much more feasible. It allows not only the sharing of resources, but the ability to back one another up during emergencies where the other department may need assistance.

The two departments signed a mutual aid agreement July 1, 2007, enabling them partner up when needed. The exercise was one of the first joint efforts since the agreement.

Many of the firefighters described the bond between the two departments as just another example of how strong the brotherhood among all firefighters is.

"No matter where you go, fireman to fireman is a brotherhood. It's like seeing family you haven't seen in a while," said Lt. Mark Duckworth, Macon Bibb County Fire Department.

Not only are the exercises valuable to the firefighters, it gives each department a glimpse into how the other works. The understanding that results from working with each other before a disaster strikes allows them to respond to emergencies in unison.

"We are able to speak and sing from the same sheet of music," said Marvin Riggins, Macon Bibb County Fire Department chief.

Another benefit of the agreement and the joint exercise is an understanding of the Incident Command System and how to work together under the system during real world emergencies.

"It brings our resources together in a collaborative way. If there is ever a major disaster, we already know how to work together," said Danny Mercer, chief of training for the Macon Bibb County Fire Department. "This way we know each others capabilities."

Though the off-base firefighters were benefiting from Robins resources, members of the Robins Fire Department were looking forward to benefiting from some structural fire trainers maintained by the Macon Bibb County Fire Department.

"They have some trainers we don't hav,e such as confined space and entanglement training," Mr. Megonigle said.

The Macon Bibb County Fire Department also has some Class A burn rooms where materials such as wood, straw and hay can be burned, said Stan Beard, assistant chief of operations for the B-shift.