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Andersen AFB firefighters answer call for support

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The local civilian fire department recently requested immediate firefighting support from Andersen Air Force Base firefighters to assist with a wildland fire near the base's Masada Gate.

Response personnel from Andersen included 16 firefighters, two medics, three 36th Security Forces Squadron personnel and one Navy helicopter to provide real-time aerial surveillance of the fire and containment efforts.

After slightly more than an hour, the fire was brought under control. More than 7,000 gallons of water was used to contain the blaze that consumed 10 acres of forest and brush land.

Andersen's response to the support request from Guam Fire Department is just another example of the close relationship the base enjoys with the local population and government services.

"Emergencies aren't pre-planned events," said Joey San Nicolas, Fire Service Specialist with Guam Fire Department. "Mutual aid is critical and today's event highlights a long history the base and GFD have of working together."

That teamwork is a contributing factor to what firefighters view as the most important part of their job.

"Everyone coming home safely with a job well done is job number one," said William Omeara, assistant chief of operations for the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighting flight. "We have a great working relationship with GFD."

For some base firefighters, the opportunity to participate in a wild fire response was a learning experience.

"Usually we are working to put out structural and aircraft fires," said Senior Airman Christopher Mann, a 36th CES firefighting flight driver/operator. "It was definitely different than the way we are used to doing things. It was quite interesting to see the camaraderie with the GFD. It was an awesome experience."

Andersen's firefighters constantly train for a variety of scenarios that enable them to respond, assess and control fires during a crisis. Their quick response and good partnership with local civilian emergency services enabled them to keep the fire under control and prevent it from spreading even further.

"It was too big for [GFD] to handle on their own and it was too big for us to handle on our own," said John Thompson, Andersen Air Force Base fire chief. "We've had 50 to 60 acre fires out there before. It was on the verge of becoming a much larger fire."

Continued training will be key for Andersen's firefighters, with plans in the future to bring Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., firefighters in to share their expertise in fighting wildland fires. This will go a long way toward protecting the resources that Guam offers and keeping up the highly effective mutual aid relationship the firefighting units share now.