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Marines with Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting extinguish a fire during controlled burn exercises aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Feb. 23. Marines with ARFF use jet fuel to ignite a fire in a controlled setting to practice putting it out. The fires can reach over 2,000 degrees.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Melissa Eschenbrenner

Burn baby burn, training inferno

23 Feb 2013 | Lance Cpl. Melissa Eschenbrenner

100 gallons of JP-8 jet fuel feeds a 2,000-degree inferno that has swallowed an old aircraft cabin as billowing, black smoke darkens the sky.

Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines gear-up to combat the flames with their only comfort riding in the knowledge that this is a controlled burn training exercise. It was an important experience for ARFF Marines here, Feb. 23, as they trained for the worst.

“We don’t often see [fuel fires], so we come out here to practice as much as possible,” said Lance Cpl. Sergio Guillen, a firefighter with ARFF, and a Carlsbad, N.M., native. “If we didn’t train, we would be incompetent if there was a fuel fire because fuel fires burn differently from other fires. They have a mind of their own so this training lets us perfect our technique and work with back-up men.”

ARFF trains with water instead of foam, which they would use in a real situation. Guillen said it is important to practice with water because it is harder to fight fire caused by fuel with water than foam. He also explained that using jet fuel for controlled burn exercises ensures that the teams can put out fires caused by many different types of sources.

The Marines use a two-person team consisting of a hand-line man and a back-up man. The hand-line man holds the nozzle of the hose to control the water and focuses on the fire directly in front of the team, while the back-up man signals the hand-line man where to move to and ensures the team does not become surrounded by flames.

“The teamwork is extremely important,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Hansen, an ARFF section leader, and a Montegue, Mich., native. “You’re going in as a team. You have the hand-line man and the back-up man looking out for them and the teamwork that goes on behind the scenes. The other Marines pumping fuel and making sure there is water.”

As a team, ARFF can defeat fires of all types and help in other situations. They train to stay ready for any mishap that may occur here or up to 15 miles outside of the air station.

“You play how you practice,” said Guillen. “So we have to practice hard so when you have to use those skills you’re ready.”

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