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Local fire fighters train aboard Air Station

By Lance Cpl. Monique L. Wallace | | June 8, 2006

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Firefighters from Beaufort County participated in a weeklong fire training and rescue program on the Air Station this week.

The quarterly training, hosted by Fightertown’s Structural Fire Department, helps prepare firefighters for realistic situations they could face on a daily basis and it helps build a sense of camaraderie between the local departments.

Lowcountry firefighters from various locations converged on the Air Station, including Lady’s Island, Burton and the city of Beaufort fire departments, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island Fire and Rescue Department and the Air Station’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines.

“Training together allows us to see and understand our weaknesses and our strengths both as individual departments and as a single combined working unit,” said Fightertown Fire Chief Jim Bollack. “This allows us to become more proficient, to strengthen areas of weakness and minimize or eliminate the emergency situation at hand as safely and effectively as possible.”

A mutual aid agreement exists within the fire departments in the area, said Robert Banfield of the Parris Island Fire Department. According to Banfield, the mutual aid agreement formalizes the spirit of stations pitching in to help each other as needed during fire and rescue situations.

The training is scheduled so all firefighters are able to participate regardless of what shift they work.

The firefighters trained in what’s referred to as the ‘burn building’ here, which allowed each participant an opportunity to battle a blaze in a realistic environment. The Air Station’s burn facility is the only of its kind in the area.

“The fire is realistic, but in a controlled environment to minimize risks and so they can see what they are doing,” said Darran Vaughn, a firefighter with the Air Station’s Structural Department.

“Our goal in this training is to allow those firefighters who have limited access to actual ‘live fire’ training to become more proficient in a volatile environment,” Bollack said.  “The more familiar we are with a specific task, the better equipped we as firefighters become in overcoming the adverse conditions and accomplishing each task safely and effectively.”

According to many of the firefighters, the training helps them maintain important skills and build situational awareness.

“As we train together we start to recognize familiar faces and start to become more relaxed with how we work with each other,” Banfield said. “This allows us to concentrate more on accomplishing the task at hand and worrying less about meeting and working with strangers, in this case our fellow firefighters. It builds a sense of trust and relief knowing that someone has your back if things get out of control.”

The training done on the Air Station here will give the firefighters confidence in themselves and each other.

“There is no fire department anywhere that knows it all, Banfield said. “When we train together we can bring our collective knowledge together and share it. We all benefit from that.”

“Having this opportunity to train with off base departments is worthwhile. Everyone appreciates the Air Station and its leadership for allowing this to happen,” Vaughn said.
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