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Whiteman firefighters turn-up the heat

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
A dark smoke-filled house is set ablaze. The high-pitched symphony of sirens reverberates in the distance. The echo of stomping boots sprinting toward the monstrous inferno. The cool, calm facial expressions worn by firefighters portray bravery and determination as they prepare to extinguish the blazing terror.

To many people this compares to a scene from a fictional movie. However, to the Airmen of the 509th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Emergency Services flight, fiction can quickly become reality.

"We respond to emergencies and assist medically when there is need for it," said Senior Airman Anthony Beaudry, 509th CES Driver Operator. "We continually train so that we are prepared should we have to respond."

Firefighters train relentlessly to ensure mission success. The fire department supports the 509th BW mission by providing fire protection capabilities for the B-2, assets, base infrastructure, and personnel who live, and work, on Whiteman AFB.

"Training is every day," said Emanuel Villegas, 509th CES crew chief. "We do training on ice water rescue, structural and aircraft live-fire training, and train on many other aspects of our career."

Ice-water rescue training allows Whiteman firefighters to take advantage of the Missouri's cold climate, practicing rescuing an individual who has fallen into a frozen body of water.

"The procedures for ice water rescues and technical rescues are laid out for us in our flight management plans," Villegas said. "Every firefighter, and those responsible for their crews, ensures the plans are reviewed. They are laid out step-by-step with what we do and how we perform our job here at Whiteman. Every place does things just a little bit different but we all fall under the Air Force 'umbrella'."

Additionally, firefighters are required to perform live-fire training quarterly. They use aircraft and structural live-fire trainers to practice extinguishing ablaze, and getting a "feel" for fires.

"There are a set amount of structural training fires. We conduct these quarterly, so we can meet required training hours," Villegas said.

The live-fire training area consists of both an aircraft rescue firefighting mock up and a two-story structural burn house. During the cold winter months, the aircraft live-fire trainer is shutdown, allowing water pumps to be removed, and the water drained to prevent freezing.

"Due to the winter months and our location, we are not always able to accomplish aircraft live-fire training because of winterization, safety hazard and freezing over," Villegas said. "We try to get aircraft live-fire training done within the 'good' weather months, April through October, to ensure everyone receives their required training hours and exposure to live-fire."

During a structural response to a house fire, Rescue and Command vehicles will respond. Depending on the severity and complexity of the structural house fire, an additional alarm may be sounded, resulting in additional personnel and equipment responding to the scene.

Proper care of the fire trucks and equipment is a vital aspect of a firefighter's duties. The firefighters ensure every truck is cleaned before each shift, and all equipment ready when needed.

Regardless of the situation or scenario, the main goals for firefighters remain safety and mission success.

"Every time we are faced with a situation, we must ensure each crew member is level-headed and prepared to do their job," Villegas said. "The community, our safety and lives lie in each other's hands, and we have full confidence in each other's ability to ensure everyone makes it out safe and sound. Failure is never an option and we want to ensure that 'Everyone Goes Home' at the end of a shift!"