Keeping the cold out

A locomotive from the Central Heat and Power Plant (CHPP) sits outside Dec. 21, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The CHPP produces enough energy to power around 9,100-13,000 homes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Isaac Johnson)

A locomotive from the Central Heat and Power Plant (CHPP) sits outside Dec. 21, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The CHPP produces enough energy to power around 9,100-13,000 homes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Isaac Johnson)

U.S. Air Force civilians, with the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron Central Heat and Power Plant work on boilers Dec. 21, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The CHPP uses about 180,000 tons of coal each year to keep the mission going here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Isaac Johnson)

U.S. Air Force civilians, with the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron Central Heat and Power Plant work on boilers Dec. 21, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The CHPP uses about 180,000 tons of coal each year to keep the mission going here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Isaac Johnson)

U.S. Air Force civilian Ian Martinez, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron Central Heat and Power Plant (CHPP) assistant fireman, adjusts combustion controls Dec. 21, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base Alaska. The CHPP was built in the early 1950s and much of the original equipment remains in use today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Isaac Johnson)

U.S. Air Force civilian Ian Martinez, a 354th Civil Engineer Squadron Central Heat and Power Plant (CHPP) assistant fireman, adjusts combustion controls Dec. 21, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base Alaska. The CHPP was built in the early 1950s and much of the original equipment remains in use today. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Isaac Johnson)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

When something is always there, people can tend to take it for granted. When a light switch is turned on or the thermostat is adjusted heat or power are the expected outcome.

The Airmen at the Central Heat and Power Plant are a big part of the reason buildings on base stay warm during the holiday season, despite the below-freezing temperatures outside.

“We produce all of the steam and electricity for the base,” said Phillip Hammond, the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron CHPP superintendent. “It’s a non-stop operation; we’re here every day to make sure the base never runs out of steam or power.”

Built in the early 1950s, the CHPP has been around longer than Alaska has been a state. Although it’s an older facility, it isn’t outdated.

“Over the years there have been a few upgrades,” said Hammond. “For instance, we installed new boilers, which made the process more efficient.”

During the winter in Interior Alaska heat and power are two very important things, which is why the Airmen at the CHPP do what they can to make sure Eielson always has power.

“We have a pretty high rating because we don’t have frequent outages,” said Eric Girad the 354th CES CHPP operation supervisor. “We’re able to prevent a lot of outages by being proactive and preparing for contingencies.”

The Alaskan Interior also presents some difficulties when it comes to heat and power, but the CHPP allows the Air Force to work around those and save money.

“In the Interior there is no natural gas available,” said Girad. “Because of that, coal is the most reliable and financially sound way to produce heat and power for the base.”

In the winter, whether some one turns up the heat or plugs in their car, the Airmen at the CHPP are responsible for the end results; continued and sustained heat and power.

“The CHPP is the heartbeat of the base,” said Hammond. “And we’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure it doesn’t skip a beat.”