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A CH-53E Super Stallion with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing carries an empty bucket to a simulated fire during the wildland firefighting exercise with the Miramar Fire Department aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug. 14. The fire department here can call upon 3rd MAW Marines and reliably assist from the ground and the air when other fire combating elements like the United States Forest Service request additional assets to support fires throughout California.

Photo by Cpl. Christopher Johns

First time partnership for brand-new firefighting training

15 Aug 2014 | Cpl. Christopher Johns

Third Marine Aircraft Wing aviators joined firefighters with the Miramar Fire Department in the brand-new wildland firefighting exercise aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Aug. 14.
Installation and fire department leadership designed this training to foster a communication based foundation between firefighters and 3rd MAW aviation assets. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 joined ground crews to put out a simulated fire.
“This is just the fundamentals – baby steps,” said Chief Josh Allen, assistant fire chief with the Miramar Fire Department. “It’s a growing process for the aviators and the fire department to work toward the suppression of a [simulated] brush fire aboard East Miramar.”
The fire department here can call upon 3rd MAW Marines and assist from the ground and the air when other fire-combating elements request additional assets for supporting fires throughout California.
This is also the first time Miramar firefighters worked with Marine aircraft, so this exercise is a learning point for everyone involved, explained Allen. More training of this nature is slated for the future.
“Today was the day for us to come together and see what we can do,” said Allen. “Can we come up with a good suppression scheme of maneuver? Can we effectively contain and control a fire aboard the installation? This training and future exercises to come, will create familiarities with the aviators and fire department in terminology and in terms of what we need to do so that when the day does come, we can work together effectively.”
The fire crews broke into two divisions, “A” and “Z”, while Marines attached buckets to the aircraft. Once equipped, the Super Stallions radioed ahead to let the division leaders know they were ready to drop water at the time and place in which ground crews need it.

The training was a dry run, designed and directed to simulate controlling potential fires aboard the air station, and although aircraft had buckets, they used no water as to lessen the drain on the community’s water supply.

When a successful link and familiarity is built between aviators and firefighters, the training could lead to providing a new asset to the community as well.
“Everything we try to do at Miramar, and largely in the Marine Corps, is to be the best members of the community that we can be, to provide the capabilities that we know we have, and be ready to use them when times are tough and we have to get out there and help make it happen,” said Col. John Farnam, MCAS Miramar commanding officer. “The people who were out there were very professional and the exercise was very professionally done, and the debriefing should show us where we can learn for the future.”
Aviators and firefighters built a partnership to successfully build upon for the future, and are slated to perform more training like this in the future.