20th CES firefighters gear up
By Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 12, 2018
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- After 20th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters receive notification of an emergency, they have little time to waste.
From donning gear to departing the fire station in trucks, the Airmen must be prepared for quick and efficient actions that could mean life or death.
The 30 pounds of initial gear, which consists of gloves, boots, a hood, coat, pants, and helmet, must be on in less than one minute.
“As a first responder, you want to be as quick as possible,” said Airman 1st Class Trevor Britt, 20th CES firefighter. “We have a minute to get ready, two minutes to leave the station once the tones drop. Basically, think of your house on fire and how fast you want people to be there for you. Faster is always better.”
The equipment is also worn in layers which can be added based on the multitude of threats the firefighters may face, said Airman 1st Class Nicholas Denning, 20th CES firefighter. These additional layers provide barriers against fire, debris and hot water.
The gear also ensures Airmen can withstand the elements.
One such hazard firefighters may be required to face is high expansion foam.
High expansion foam suffocates fires, which is released by fire suppression systems, such as those installed in aircraft hangars.
To protect themselves and to ensure they can help others, the Airmen may don specialized gear such as a self-contained breathing apparatus, oxygen tanks connected to a mask.
The tanks, which must also be on within one minute, provide oxygen for up to 45 minutes in a hazardous environment and adds another 30 pounds to their equipment.
While navigating hectic scenes and maneuvering around obstacles, the extra 60 pounds of gear presents a unique challenge which can be made more difficult by the possibility of also having to carry another firefighter to safety.
Denning said the Airmen maintain physical readiness to overcome the demands of their work by training every day. Through stretching and weight and agility training, the firefighters condition themselves for success.
This training helps because they have to be able to go back into the field time-and-time again and perform emergency tasks that can sometimes last days, said Denning.
By becoming familiar with the equipment at their disposal and maintaining constant physical readiness, the 20th CES firefighters ensure they are ready to aid the local community in any emergency.