507th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen, as part of the deployed 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron fire department, helped conduct the exercise to test the response and teamwork skills of the new fire crew, who all arrived with the recent rotation a few weeks ago. The exercise was a simulated fire at the Personnel Support for Contingency Operations facility.
“It was a response to a warehouse facility holding various assets, which evaluated our response and command structure, and contingency environments,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Culwell, 386th ECES station captain of Fire Station One, and deployed member of the 507th CES. “We really wanted to highlight and showcase some of our more difficult pre-fire scenarios, and the warehouse is a good location for a difficult response.”
Several challenges were considered in this scenario, including water availability, communications and equipment placement.
“Because of the location of the facility, there is a lack of water supply; so that’s why we brought the big tanker,” said Culwell. “There is an emergency water supply fairly close, so if we had to use that it would be a long stretch of large diameter hose to supply our attack lines.”
On the communication side of things, the exercise identified a dead zone in the structure where firefighters discovered radios wouldn’t transmit and receive properly. Training and adaptability prevailed, however, and the firefighters found a work-around.
“In this response we discovered a communication breakdown in one area of the building where our radios didn’t work, so we implemented a runner system for contingency communications, as well as hand signals,” said Culwell.
Weather was a major consideration in the exercise. With only a few weeks on station, the response was also an indicator for how extreme heat could effect a responding fire crew, in the event that they weren’t properly acclimated to the environment.
"We told them not to run and to drink plenty of water. Part of why we did this exercise was to get our eyes on what it’s going to take from us physically to deal with a true emergency," said Culwell. "This had no fire, no smoke and no adrenaline. We are slowly getting acclimated here and realizing what we have to do to maintain ourselves physically between diet, hydration and exercise.”
It was an important exercise not only in pre-planning responses, given that the crew had just arrived. The team worked well together on a fundamental level, as well as finding any shortfalls in their response, according to Culwell.
“It was very helpful," said Senior Airman Hunter Blackmon, 386th ECES firefighter, deployed from the 315th CES at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. "We have [only been here for] two and a half weeks, so any familiarization we can get is good. It helps us come together. Obviously, we critique every little thing, and there is stuff we want to do better, but for the most part it went really well. And if that’s a precursor to this rotation, it's going to be a really good deployment."