News: Fire department wins Best Medium Size Department in IMCOM Atlantic Region
Story by shannon bishop
FREDERICK, Md. - Just a few months shy of one year after moving into their new fire and emergency services building, the Fort Detrick Fire Department has won the Best Medium Sized Fire Department in the Atlantic Region for the Installation Management Command.
This is a huge deal,” said Brian Wheeler, Fort Detrick fire chief, about winning the IMCOM Atlantic region award. “This team has worked hard even through the furlough. This [award] is quite an accomplishment.”
Despite several hurdles throughout 2013, including furlough and several difficult fires, the Fort Detrick Fire Department excelled in areas such as customer service, innovativeness, quality of life initiatives, health, safety and community service, according to Wheeler.
Last summer, Fort Detrick and several other local fire departments responded to a fire at the newly-constructed U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. Fort Detrick fire services were able to contain the fire to only 12,000 square feet of a 25,000 square foot Biosafety Level-4 laboratory, and more than 350 employees were safely evacuated.
“Operationally, this fire was challenging,” Wheeler said. “There were 22 trucks and 72 personnel that responded to the call. The hardest part about that call was the ventilation. The fire was located in a BSL-4 laboratory that is designed not to let things out. We had to move the smoke and heat from that area. We ended up running 16 large ventilation vans overnight.”
According to Fort Detrick’s submission to IMCOM for the award, the Fort Detrick Fire Department has mutual aid agreements with several local counties and agencies to be able to serve the community in the most efficient way possible. Some of these aid agreements include partnerships with Frederick County, Montgomery County, and the Camp David Presidential Retreat.
Additionally, according to Wheeler, the special operations crew was nominated for the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce Award for providing immediate rescue measures that were directly related to saving the life of a trapped worker during a trench rescue in Frederick County.
These accomplishments, among many others, display the dedication and hard work of the Fort Detrick Fire Department, according to Director of Emergency Services Ray Wharton.
“[These] men and women are some of the finest professionals I've had the pleasure to serve with for the past 30 years of federal service. They come to work each and every day to serve and protect all those who live, work, and visit Fort Detrick and Forest Glen. They do this without reservation of endangering their own lives to save another. We are so very fortunate and extremely proud to have the caliber of men and women in our F&ES. We sleep better knowing they’re on duty,” Wharton said.
Wheeler hopes to continue to submit annually to IMCOM for this award while continually operating his facility as efficiently as possible. He says the team’s new building has improved team efficiency and morale.
“There is so much diversity here. There are so many people that bring so much to this team. This award is all because of all of their hard work. They earned this recognition,” Wheeler said.
Fort Detrick and Forest Glen have a total of 62 firefighters that work in shifts around the clock.
After winning the Atlantic Region Award, the Fort Detrick Fire Department is automatically entered into IMCOM’s competition for the Best Medium Sized Fire Department. In this competition, Fort Detrick will compete against the winners of the Europe region and the Pacific region.
The winner of this award has not yet been announced. The winner of the IMCOM award will then move on to claim the Army’s award for the Best Medium Sized Fire Department.
Fort Detrick won the Army award for the Best Medium Sized Fire Department in 2009. Wheeler is optimistic about winning the Army award again.
For more information about the Fort Detrick Fire and Emergency Services, visit http://www.detrick.army.mil/fireDept/. In the event of an emergency, dial 911.