MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
As the sun set behind the western horizon, a blanket of pitch darkness covered the sky above the outside training area. Far from the sight of spectators, Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines suited up in their firefighting gear to cordon and control a fire consuming a helicopter.
The team of three Marines approached the burning aircraft with a high-pressure fire hose, swaying it side to side to douse the helicopter in a downpour of cold water. The fire slowly receded as the flames suffocated without any dry material to burn. At the same time, a Marine went inside the aircraft and grabbed a trapped victim inside and rushed him away to receive medical attention.
Marine firefighters from ARFF, MCAS Kaneohe Bay, conducted a night firefighting training exercise using a helicopter simulator across the flightline, Saturday.
During the night simulation, they responded to an emergency call in which a helicopter crashed on the flightline and caught fire with a dummy victim inside. After responding with two fire trucks, the Marines divided into several three-man teams, taking turns extinguishing the fire and rescuing the victim.
“The exercise is meant to teach our Marines the fire’s behavior, the affects of putting water on fire, and employing techniques and procedures when responding to an incident,” said Sgt. Mitchell Koval, an ARFF section leader. “This live fire training helps them know what to do when an actual accident happens on Marine Corps Base Hawaii.”
The simulator used a fixed amount of propane to ignite the training helicopter. Even though a section leader controlled the intensity and size of the fire using a remote, the firefighters still needed to exercise extreme caution. They stayed close to one another and communicated by tapping each other on the shoulder. Lance Cpl. Kevin Rosenkranz, an ARFF handline operator, said getting close to the danger makes the job of being a firefighter worthwhile.
“I like the training because everyone gets a chance to get experience the fire up close,” Rosenkranz said. “I really like the experience and the adrenaline rush of being so close. I remember the first time I did this simulation and it was something I instantly liked and something I want to continue doing in my life.”
Beside emergency responses, ARFF is trained to deal with extraordinary hazards when dealing with crashed aircraft. Koval explained that all ARFF Marines are trained to know the details and components of a wide variety of aircraft. When responding to an emergency, the firefighters bear in mind details such as the type of aircraft involved, fuel used and whether there is any sensitive material or explosive ordnance on board.
“This live-fire training simulation is in a controlled environment without all the dangerous hazards of an actual emergency,” Koval said. “The training is as close to the real thing these firefighters will get without causing more destruction and chaos.”