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Andersen fire fighters train like they live

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erica Stewart
  • 36th Operations Group public affairs
Three years ago a B-1 Lancer from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota landed on the flight line at Andersen with the right main landing gear engulfed in flames.

The landing gear on this $231 million aircraft was in serious condition upon landing and by the time the fire was extinguished, and by the time the fire was extinguished, the aircraft incurred $32 million worth of damage, according to an Andersen fire fighter on duty that night.

"There really wasn't much time to process any personal thoughts," said Will O'Meara, an Andersen fire fighter. "Your training just takes over," he said.

Because of continuous aircraft emergency training done by the Andersen fire department, that almost deadly fire was safely extinguished and the plane recovered.

"Andersen fire fighters are in a continuous spiral of training to keep aircraft, like the deployed bombers, safe everyday," said Senior Master Sgt. Lien, Andersen Fire Department deputy fire chief.

In between a 72-hour work week, Andersen fire fighters' training includes instruction specific to individual aircraft in order to service each aircraft in an emergency situation, safely and efficiently.

"We have about every different aircraft imaginable coming in and out of the Andersen flight line," said Master Sgt. Daniel Cline. "It is imperative that we know how to properly conduct ourselves in an emergency."

One way that fire fighters learn how to conduct themselves during an aircraft emergency is to study diagrams depicting the aircraft and how to shut down the aircraft.

"Each diagram tells us where the emergency crews should position themselves on the aircraft during an emergency based on possible hazards," Sergeant Cline said. "These hazards could be the fuel tank, forward firing munitions, etc."

Along with studying diagrams, the fire fighters also receive hands on training.

"Whenever possible, we schedule time to go into the aircraft to go through the emergency shut down procedures and get familiar with the cockpit," Sergeant Cline said.
"Picture your self as an automobile mechanic," Sergeant Lien said. "No matter how many diagrams of an engine you study, how much trouble shooting you do in class, there is no comparison for experience."

These fire fighters also gain experience through simulated aircraft fires.

"We have a mock aircraft trainer, set up by a C-17 Globemaster III or C-5 Galaxy, that will simulate almost any kind of fire or emergency procedure to include engines fires, cockpit fire and rear fires." Senior Airman Mathew Jones, Andersen fire dispatcher. "They're all controlled propane fires," he said.

Through continual education, simulated rescue and fire scenarios the Andersen fire department is able to handle real world emergencies in the world's most elite air and space force.

"Failure is not an option for the Andersen fire department," Sergeant Lien said. "Our men will go through a burning lake of fire to save a life and then defend assets."

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