Eight U.S. Naval Reservists and one local firefighter from the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department recently earned their aircraft rescue firefighter certification following a five-day training program offered at NAS Patuxent River by Naval District Washington Fire and Emergency Services.
The training fulfilled the 40-hourrequirement by the National Fire Protection Association for NFPA 1003, the standard which identifies the minimum job performance requirements for firefighters responsible for aircraft rescue and firefighting.
“In addition to classroom instruction, participants also took part in a practical exercise simulating an aircraft fire and had to pass a final written test,” explained District Fire Chief Chris Connelly, NDW/NAS Patuxent River.
Among the many topics covered in the comprehensive program were: aircraft construction and identification; extinguishing agents; how to navigate runways and taxiways; the different tools, equipment and apparatus used when fighting aircraft fires; and aircraft communication systems.
“It’s important to know each aircraft,” Connelly said.
This includes knowing the flammable limits of the composites and materials used to construct the aircraft, where the canopies and doors are to egress pilots and passengers, how much fuel the aircraft holds, where the fuel and oil shut down levers are and where to direct a water stream to shut down an engine.
Even the trucks used in aircraft firefighting are different from those used in fighting structural fires.
“In addition to foam, airport crash trucks carry their own 3,000 gallon water supply,” Connelly said. “They can roll; they’re not stationery.”
While aircraft fires are generally dealt with using crash trucks, the course had the trainees using high-pressure hoses and physically-demanding teamwork to battle the realistic aircraft fire during their practical exercise.
“It teaches them hose control,” Connelly said. “There are teams of three. The first person aims the hose, the second helps to guide and maneuver, and the third feeds the hose forward and avoids kinks.”
Herbert Chavez, a Reservist from Ft. Worth, Texas, felt confident and safe during the practical.
“Between the classroom lecture and the walk-through before, I knew what to expect,” he said. “I was ready.”
Airport communication is also an important tool for newcomers to learn.
“Learning proper communications signals is huge,” Connelly said. “Speaking the same jargon the pilots use with the control tower guarantees clear communication.”
While this was only the second training session offered for Reservists, Pax River firefighters must meet ongoing annual requirements.
“We offer monthly sessions for our Pax people,” Connelly said. “It keeps everyone sharp.”