Battlin’ Blazes Rescuers and heroes of a different kind

26 Sep 2008 | Lance Cpl. Austin Goacher

A dark plume of smoke rose above the flight line during a training fire aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Sept. 26.

The controlled fire helped the station’s Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines prepare to fight fuel fires in the event of an emergency.

“This training ensures we know what to do if there is a fuel spill that catches on fire,” said Cpl. John Anderson, a fireman with ARFF.

Before the training began, the Marines double-checked their protective equipment which includes: fireproof pants and jacket, protective shoes, a helmet and visor, and an oxygen tank.

“Obviously, when you’re doing something like this, safety is critical to success,” said Staff Sgt. Giancarlo Pinero, the training staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the unit.

After ensuring their gear worked properly, the Marines began to pump fuel into an area known as the “pit.” The pit serves as a safe area for the Marines to train because it is surrounded by gravel and filled with water.

Once enough fuel was pumped, the Marines lit the pit on fire, sparking an inferno, producing smoke billowing several-hundred feet high.

“The flame is pretty intense, but feeling the heat is my favorite part of this training,” said Anderson.

Once the flame enveloped most of the pit, two pairs of Marines sprung into action, corralling and extinguishing the blaze.

Two P-19 fire trucks idled nearby, with crews waiting to spray down the firefighters if the flames were too hot for them to continue.

During the training, a real-life scenario pulled the Marines onto the flight line.  An aircraft called in to make an assisted landing and the Marines responded to the call. The Marines worked with the aircraft recovery section to ensure the pilot could safely land his F/A-18D on the runway.

“We train so we can handle real life situations no matter when they happen,” said Anderson.

Once the pilot and aircraft were safely on the flight line, the ARFF Marines headed back to the pit.

After wrapping up the training exercise the firefighting Marines headed back to their flight line fire station.

“They did good,” said Pinero. “We expect our guys to be perfect, but it’s never going to be perfect because there’s always room for improvement.”