MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Expeditionary Firefighting Rescue Marines conducted a controlled burn training exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Dec. 13.
The training provided the Marines an opportunity to prepare for real life scenarios they might encounter. The training simulates extinguishing a jet fire. The Marines burned jet fuel to make the training realistic.
“With this type of fire you really have to keep your head on the swivel,” said Cpl. Damien Sanders, a firefighter with Expeditionary Firefighting Rescue. “If you don’t properly extinguish it the fuel can reignite next to you or even behind you. When you go to our school you learn firefighting techniques with propane fires. This fire is different because fire burns jet fuel differently.”
The exercise took place at a training pit specially designed for fires. There is a mock aircraft surrounded by nozzles that spray jet fuel into the pit and out of the back of the plane. When the Marines are ready, the jet fuel is ignited by a flare.
“For many of these Marines they don’t have experience with a jet fuel fire,” said Sgt. Aaron Hosenfeld, a firefighter with Expeditionary Firefighting Rescue. “This is an entirely different ball game from what they are used too. There is no replacement for experience.”
To extinguish the fire, two pairs of Marines approach on either side of it. The first Marine holds the hand line or hose and controls the direction of the water. The second Marine stabilizes the first and watches for safety hazards. For the training there was also a pit safety officer watching each pair of Marines.
“Safety is paramount,” said Hosenfeld. “If I deem anything unsafe or see anything unsafe I will do one of two things. I will take over the hand line myself and have the Marines back out of the pit, or I will hand signal for the trucks to rain down water.”
The Marines also considered environmental safety at the pit. Because there was excess water that runs off of the pit they surrounded the back of the pit with a berm of fuel absorbing material. Another safety precaution was an extra tanker of water and a rapid intervention team on standby.
“It’s exciting to be able to do these,” said Sgt. David Waterfield, a firefighter with Expeditionary Firefighting Rescue. “This is my first time working a training fire with jet fuel. I think the experience is important, but it also builds camaraderie and trust. There is absolutely risk involved, so you have to trust each other.”