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Firefighters hone hangar response skills

10 May 2012 | Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe

Smoke billows through the hangar bay and hall­ways of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 headquarters as firefight­ers respond to a simu­lated explosion during a drill aboard the Air Sta­tion, May 3.

The simulation was designed to test the re­sponse of firefighters with the Air Station’s structural fire depart­ment and Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Marines.

Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting Marines trained to clear a burning facil­ity by closing off all light sourses and filling the building with fog, said Staff Sgt. Talib Sample, the Air­craft Rescue Fire Fighting deputy section leader.

The drill began with the incident commander as­sessing the scene of the emergency upon arrival. Firefighters have 30 min­utes to clear the hangar before they must be re­placed by a rescue team with a full oxygen supply.

“During an actual crisis, the scene would be in ut­ter confusion,” said Lance Cpl. Donald Campbell, a firefighter with Crash Fire Rescue. “There will be screaming coming from inside the building, people wondering outside dazed—just chaos.”

While emergency medi­cal personnel provide first aid for hangar staff, who managed to escape after the explosion, res­cue personnel are suiting up in heat reflective gear and breathing equipment to rescue anyone still in­side the building.

“It’s important to travel in groups of at least two firefighters when enter­ing a building engulfed in flames,” said Campbell. “When doing something as dangerous and impor­tant as going into a burn­ing building to save lives it’s very important to be aware of your surround­ings and travel in groups of two to not become a casualty yourself.”

Rescue personnel clear the building room by room searching for people who may have lost consciousness from smoke inhalation or are trapped under wreckage. Water hoses are distrib­uted throughout the han­gar in case the rescue team has to clear an area blocked by fire.

Fire in a hangar can create bigger problems due to the materials that are present to support everyday aviation op­erations. Fuel and other combustible materials can be found throughout the maintenance bay of the hangar.

“One example of when its dangerous to extin­guish a fire using water in an aircraft hangar is when the magnesium brakes ignite,” said Campbell. “Using water would cause the magne­sium to go into a thermal shock reaction and cause another explosion.”

Sample explains why fire fighters need to know this kind of information.

“Safety is always the top priority whenever a crisis occurs,” said Sample.

“This is why we do our best to ensure that our firefighters can apply critical thinking during any crisis.”