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Andersen, civilian fire departments respond to B-2 crash

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erica Stewart
  • 13th Air Force Public Affairs
"One word: Fearless," said Senior Master Sgt. Richard Lien, Andersen's deputy fire chief. 

When the call came in at 10:30 a.m. on Feb.24 that a B-2 Spirit had crashed on the flight line, 44 Andersen firefighters put emotions aside and relied on their extensive training to fight the fuel-intensified fire.

The multi-functional bomber, without munitions but completely full of jet fuel for a direct flight back to Whiteman AFB, Mo., produced a 500-foot plume of smoke and about 2,000 degrees of intense heat, firefighters estimated.

"Military and civilian fire fighters were out there, 30 feet from 2,000 degree heat, putting their lives on the line to save one of the greatest treasures of the U.S.," said John Thompson, Andersen's fire chief. "Emotions were running high, but by the time the phone rang to the time the fire fighters were spraying water on the aircraft was less than five minutes."

The Andersen fire department is able to respond to a variety of aircraft in an emergency situation quickly and efficiently thanks to continuous training, including instruction specific to the B-2.

"Your mind becomes overwhelmed with the scene, but you are going through the motions because your fire fighting button has kicked in and you fall back on the training that you've received," Chief Thompson said. "We have done extensive hands-on and classroom training in advance concerning the B-2 and knew exactly where to position trucks because of where the hazards were, like possible munitions, where the fuel was and the ejections seats."

Six hours, 83,000 gallons of water and 2,500 gallons of foam later, the $1.2 billion aircraft sat smoldering, but no longer on fire.

"For the situation we had, there was really no way we could have done it better at that time" said Tech. Sgt. Rudolph Mendiola, the initial incident commander. "The fire itself was under control within a half an hour, and no major injuries were sustained to either the fire fighters or the pilots."

Mutual aid played a great part in keeping the flames at bay. 

The Guam Fire Department responded with two fire engines and a command vehicle, including a 5,000 gallon tanker with the capacity to discharge 750 gallons a minute of extinguishing agent, according to Sergeant Mendiola.

The firefighters from the Guam fire department were ready and willing to come to the aid of their military counterparts, said Tony Rabon, Guam fire department assistant fire chief.

"This accident is testimony to the professional working relationship to our military counterparts on Guam and this is something that we've always planned for, we know our roles and we know how to play it right to ensure a minimal loss to lives and property," Rabon said. "We are very pleased to be part of the Andersen mission, and we always support our military community on Guam in defense of our nation."

This is the first crash of a B-2, and a board of officers will fully investigate the accident, according to a Pacific Air Force's press release.