EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ak. --
“For me, time felt like time slowed down and you could see the fire dancing around before getting extinguished. But exiting the structure I felt victorious, it was an awesome feeling; literally like a kid in a candy store,” said Tech. Sgt. Kristopher Jaime, the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron fire emergency services assistant chief of operations while describing, first-hand, the first fire he ever faced.
The mission of the Eielson Fire Department is to provide fire emergency services for the preservation and protection of life, property and the mission of Eielson Air Force Base.
To become a U.S. Air Force firefighter, Airmen must go through weeks of training before becoming certified.
“New firefighters go through a 68-day exhaustive training course and curriculum at the Louis F. Garland Fire Academy on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas,” said Jaime. “Upon graduation and assignment to their new base, they are tasked with completing a Fire & Emergency Services Developmental Program “Rookie Book” consisting of three parts; an oral board, writing assignments and a critical task list on basic firemanship.”
Each base offers a variety of challenges that firefighters must be equipped to handle.
“The types of training we go through varies from base to base,” said Jaime. “At Eielson, we provide services anywhere from structural response, aircraft rescue and firefighting, to hazardous material handling, emergency medical services and technical rescue. Along with those services, we also provide aid to the surrounding communities through mutual and automatic aid agreements.”
Firefighters are not only skilled in controlling and reducing fires, they must also be skilled in various other areas of fire safety.
“Something unique about our job that people don’t know is we have to know and be proficient with almost everything,” said Jaime. “We need to know how to shut down aircraft, rewind barriers to put the runways back in service, we must understand how the alarm systems and suppression systems work, and also be able to troubleshoot issues with our vehicles.”
Recently, the firefighters put all their skills to the test when they were called to respond to an emergency on base and like a well-oiled machine, the Airmen made their way through and secured the area.
“We got a call of a confirmed structure fire. Smoke was billowing out the rear of the structure; the E-82 crew made entry to perform fire attack and located and extinguished the fire on the first floor,” explained Jaime. “Rescue crews advanced to the basement, first and second floors to conduct primary and secondary searches. The E-81 crew coordinated ventilation with interior crews, performed rapid intervention team actions and resupplied E-82.”
Jaime concluded that the crew’s rapid knockdown prevented the fire from spreading.
In order to accomplish the objective and come home safe, firefighters rely not only on their gear to protect them, but also on one another.
“We must always trust our training and trust our gear, but more importantly, we must trust that our crew and department has our back, best interest and overall safety in mind day in and day out,” said Jaime.