EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Wildfires are frequent in the Interior of Alaska. With thousands of acres of land to cover and minimal manning, firefighting can be a tiresome task.
Although there is a lot of land to cover, the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters are prepared to drop everything when they hear the siren screeching through their building. They know it’s time to spring into action and lend a helping hand to the community.
“Any department can handle the day to day operations,” said Ernie Misewicz, the Salcha Fire and Rescue chief. “But when you get a situation that needs additional resources, unfortunately there’s not one department that has those. The mutual aid agreement gives us the ability to work with the neighboring departments, such as Eielson, to accomplish the out-of-the ordinary type of calls.”
Some of the fire departments in the community are purely volunteer departments. So they don’t always have proper manning. However, the mutual aid the 354th CES firefighters provide helps alleviate any stress the departments have when they are short-staffed.
“When you get to larger incidents, regardless if it’s a volunteer or paid department, we depend on other departments for assistance,” said Misewicz. “This also works the other way around; if something happens on-base we would be able to assist them.”
Usually, mutual aid is dictated by the season. As the winter comes to an end, the volume of calls rises.
“We usually provide support 10 to 20 times a year,” said Mark Hughes the 354th CES chief of operations for the 354th fire and emergency services flight. “Within the last month we’ve provided mutual aid support three times.”
Aside from providing assistance to the surrounding communities, mutual aid gives the Eielson firefighters an opportunity to train and hone their skills.
“On the installation we generally don’t see that many fires,” said Hughes. “Being able to assist our partners through this mutual aid agreement is a ‘win-win’ situation for everybody. We are able to provide aid to the community, while at the same time it provides our Airmen the ability to apply what they’ve learned.”
Hughes said they enjoy being able to support the community and provide them with the same services as Eielson.
“I think the working relationship between the Eielson fire department and our Salcha department is excellent, said Misewicz. “They are highly trained and have provided a much needed professional service. They are truly great to work with.”