Monday, April 22, 2013

Firefighters 'smoke' rare training exercise

by Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

4/19/2013 - OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- In the event of an aircraft crash, jet fuel is a major concern for the safety of the passengers onboard. In order to ensure readiness in extinguishing fuel fires, Airmen in the Republic of Korea were given an opportunity to participate in specialized training.

The 51st Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters honed their skills in a peninsula wide live aircraft fuel-fire exercise at Camp Humphreys. The training included burning unusable JP-8 fuel to simulate a jet aircraft crash. Firefighters trained on controlling and extinguishing fuel fires in order to keep potential passengers safe.

"This type of training is paramount," said Tech. Sgt. John McLean, center, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron fire and emergency services flight B-shift station captain. "This is the closest we can get to actually crashing a jet. This is a rare opportunity that provides us with a lot of good training for my younger Airmen that haven't burned with JP-8 before."

The fuel burned in this exercise would typically be disposed of, but was given to the Camp Humphreys fire training section for this unique opportunity. JP-8 is a kerosene-based fuel is a safer and less flammable version of JP-4, the tpe of fuel used by the AF before 1996. It is a safer, less flammable version of JP-4. Exercises like these are usually held at Tyndall Air Force Base Fla. Using propane, which doesn't replicate a real fuel fire as well.

Handling a fuel fire is different from extinguishing a regular fire so different techniques must be used for it. Due to the high cost of foam, firefighters had to use water during the specialized training.

"However we would use a foam concentrate in our crash trucks to fight a fuel fire because water is a polar whereas JP-8 is an anti-polar," McLean said. "They don't mix, so the fuel will float on top of water. Water will spread the fire before extinguishing it. We use the foam which forms a blanket over the fuel to smother the fuel and remove the oxygen."

Due to the unique opportunity of this training, units from around the country were invited to participate.

"This particular exercise is pretty exciting; we have units from all over the peninsula," said Dathan Black, Camp Humphreys training assistant fire chief. "We have Osan, Camp Red Cloud, Camp Casey, Republic of Korea Air Force, Chinhae Naval Base, and usually U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan firefighters. So we have had a pretty good mix from all over the peninsula come in."

Safety is paramount in any live-fire exercise. Safety is a bigger concern when using jet fuel because of its different properties and burning capabilities.

"We've got a lot of safety measurements in place," Black said. "Safety officers are appointed for each evaluation and exercise. We do this training so often that we are pretty good at ensuring safety. We take a lot of precautions and do this as safe as we can so we can continue to do it."

No comments: