FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Being responsible for thousands of lives, more than 4,000 acres of land and approximately 35 aircraft, the 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire department knows the importance of keeping their Airmen rescue ready.
The Fairchild Fire Department received more than 450 emergency calls in 2016, ranging from medical emergencies to structural fires. With a force of nearly 60 firefighters, 60 different experience levels and backgrounds, training is a means of bringing the force together, unifying the flight and ensuring Fairchild firefighters are the first to the scene.
“Training is absolutely essential and it’s never ending,” said Senior Airman Curtis Goldensoph, 92nd CES fire protection journeyman. “The Air Force does an excellent job at teaching and ensuring fire prevention is followed. They’ve done too good of a job, to where we must supplement traditional training to maintain certifications.”
To keep their skills sharpened, Fairchild firefighters attend on average 15 to 20 classes per month which include first time and refresher training on skills, certifications and requirements gained throughout their careers. This involves completing various career skill levels and advancing through each: apprentice, journeyman, craftsman and superintendent.
As new Airmen, fire protection apprentices attend a Department of Defense Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, where they receive a crash course on the basics of firefighting. They earn basic certifications including airport rescue firefighting, basic structural firefighting, basic operational hazardous material and emergency responder certification.
Following the academy, Airmen are then assigned to a base where the most important aspect of firefighting begins, on-the-job training. Every base and every station is slightly different, and becoming accustomed to the operations and mission at an assigned base is important, Goldensoph said.
Immediately, Airmen begin working toward earning their journeyman skill level. Each Airman must become trained and licensed in each type of vehicle, understand the basic maintenance of each vehicle and how to properly employ the equipment.
Fairchild Fire Department has numerous vehicles, each unique to a specific mission set including an airport rescue firefighting vehicle, an engine, a mobile water supply vehicle, rescue vehicle and state-of-the-art hazardous material response unit.
“Some would say we are the jack of all trades and the master of none,” said Dean De Guzman, 92nd CES assistant fire chief of health and safety. “Amongst the most basic firefighter skills, we have specialized rescues and trainings specific to Fairchild such as high-angle rescue, wildland rescue, confined spaces and hazardous material response program.”
With the top hazardous material response program in the state of Washington, the Fairchild Fire Department utilizes a mutual aid agreement and can be found training and working alongside the Airway Heights Fire Department, Spokane County Fire Departments and Spokane City Fire Department.
“The benefit of working with the community is having insight into many different methods of fighting fire and conducting rescues,” De Guzman said. “When we get together with our community partners, we learn a lot from each other and are able to excel.”
The Fairchild Fire Department maintains readiness and sustainment through high-fidelity training programs with surrounding fire services and continuous unit fire protection training.
As an Airman continues their training and completes their upgrade requirements, they begin to develop into a more seasoned firefighter and start to focus on stepping into the role as a crew leader, said Master Sgt. Andres Steevens, 92nd CES assistant fire chief of training.
“Staff sergeants begin to earn additional certifications to lead Airmen including Fire Instructor 1, Fire Inspector 1 and a basic managerial course known as Fire Officer 1,” Steevens said. “These craftsman skill level technicians also gain more responsibility by taking on bigger roles in hazardous material response and wildland response.”
As superintendent skill levels are earned, Airmen fill the roles of fire chief and deputy fire chief and can be found teaching, enforcing building codes and leading the fire protection flight.
“Training never stops for a firefighter,” Steevens said. “Even after being promoted, the training is continuous because we have to be ready for every possible circumstance.”
The Fairchild Fire Department can be found supporting the flightline, working with the 92nd Maintenance Group ensuring aircraft are complying with fire code, walking the halls of base buildings to ensure proper fire prevention methods are in place and responding with the 92nd Medical Operations Squadron ambulance.
Training ensures Fairchild firefighters protect their customers and the surrounding community, maintain safety and continue their education, De Guzman said.
“Majority of our skills, if not used, will deteriorate over time,” Goldensoph said. “Even with something as simple as knot tying, you’re a master right after learning. But before long, without the proper training, you’ve lost a skill.”
Fairchild Fire Department’s mission is their number one priority and by organizing, training and equipping today’s force for the fight, ensures the department’s highest success.