MCAS Beuafort --
Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting conducted a controlled burn training exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Oct. 20.
The live fire gave experienced Marines training they need to stay proficient and gave the new Marines a chance to train with a live fire. 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 Gunnery Sgt. Eric Biczko, the training chief for ARFF. “All fire needs is heat oxygen and fuel. Therefore, if you don’t properly extinguish it the fuel can reignite next to you or even behind you.
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 then Marines are set up a Marine lights the jet fuel with a flare.
“Some of the Marines have never experienced a jet fuel fire,” said Lance Cpl. Blake Eden, a firefighter with ARFF.” In the schoolhouse, we train with propane-fueled fires. We don’t have the chance to train on a jet fuel fire until we get to our unit. With the propane fires there is always an emergency shut off switch, with the jet fuel ones there isn’t. Jet fuel is a lot more unpredictable than propane which makes the training that much more real. We have to do our job if we don’t then the fire will continue to burn until the furl burns out.”
To extinguish the fire, two teams of firefighters approach the jet on both sides. 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 team of Marines.
“Safety is paramount,” said Biczko. “Because this is all for training then there will always be a senior enlisted Marine watching. We want to make sure the training is done right but safely. In real fires there won’t be a safety officer to watch but instead the whole team working together to extinguish it.”
The Marines also considered environmental safety at the pit. Because there was excess water that runs off the pitthey 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.
“We make sure to have materials to absorb any fuel mixed water that might get out of the pit before it hits the grass,” said Biczko. “After all the training is done we survey the area surrounding the pit to ensure no fuel touched the vegetation. During the training we have a crew on standby to wash any fuel away from the grass.”