MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Firefighters train regularly to synchronize the many hidden details of effectively fighting fires, and an opportunity to train in actual house fires for local fire departments on Combat Center grounds created a chance to perfect the inside operations of a fire rescue.
For two days firefighters from the Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, San Bernardino County, Morongo Valley and Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 drilled through firefighting procedures.
Firefighters are broken into five teams of three to four firefighters in a real-life fire emergency:
• The fire attack team is first in the house to conquer interior fires.
• The ventilation team comes in conjunction with the fire attack team to break the windows and open up the building to release toxic fumes. This team also tears apart the walls and any furniture, such as mattresses and couches, to destroy any hidden fires.
• The safety team remains at a distance from the action as backup in case the fire becomes uncontrollable by the first two teams. For the training exercise, this team’s assignment was also to assist the instructors before and after each take in case of any emergency outbreaks.
• The exposure team stays outside the perimeter in case the fire spreads beyond the house and onto any dry vegetation around the house.
• The rapid intervention crew stands by, prepared to intervene and rescue any injured firefighters.
In a real fire emergency, each of the teams would be on a fire truck. The Combat Center Fire Department has three trucks, so in order to fight an actual house fire, the fire department would need to recall all firefighters and call on one of the civilian fire departments in the area for more support. This would include the departments that took part in the fire training exercises, making communication even more critical.
Throughout the day the teams took time out of fighting fires to rehabilitate from the heat build-up. Fires in a typical bedroom can heat to 400 degrees in 10 minutes, said Conrad Peguro, firefighter, Combat Center Fire Department.
“Its important to stay very low when fighting fires and to get rid of as much smoke as possible,” he said. “When the room doesn’t get rid of heat quick enough, there is a possibility of a flashover.”
For a firefighter, a flashover is one of the most dangerous fire behaviors to encounter, Peguro said. A flashover occurs when there is so much heat in a condensed space that the fire restarts and becomes more disastrous than the original fire.
In the event of a flashover, the search and rescue of a victim can come to an abrupt and often tragic end. This is where ventilation has an important role, said Matthieu.
The Combat Center Fire Department regularly trains with MWSS-374 in fire exercises at the Expeditionary Airfield here to continue improving firefighting techniques to better serve the community, said Matthieu.
Behind the scenes of what appears to be a scattered assembly to extinguish a fire, there is coordination and practice emplaced into each firefighter to react quickly and efficiently in any situation.