MCAS BEAUFORT, S.C. --
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.”