SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras - To mark the end of Fire Prevention Week here, the Joint Task Force-Bravo Fire and Emergency Services professionals from the 612th Air Base Wing hosted a "fire muster" today, giving members of JTF-Bravo as well as local Honduran fire departments an opportunity to test their firefighting skills.
"We hold this event to build camaraderie and to bring awareness to firefighting and fire prevention," said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Smith, Chief of Fire and Emergency Services. "It's an opportunity for us to reinforce our message during Fire Prevention Week."
The Soto Cano Fire Muster consisted of a timed course, during which participants did everything from carry a rolled up fire hose up two flights of stairs to use a rubber sledgehammer to advance a Keiser sled to carry a rescue dummy, along with several other demanding physical tasks, all while wearing a helmet and an oxygen tank.
"It was a good cardio workout for sure," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bruce. "It took motivation and teamwork to get through the course."
The timed course was short and presented a very small piece of what firefighters actually deal with when responding to a real-life emergency.
"The course is just a taste of what it's really like physically," said Smith. "When firefighters are called to duty, they not only have a very physically demanding job, but it's done with thick clothing and heavy gear, and in heat upward of 1,000 degrees. This is magnified here as we have a very limited number of people to utilize, so being fit is a top priority."
Along with member of JTF-Bravo, individuals from the Honduran cities of La Paz and Siguatepeque took part in the muster as well. The Americans cheered on their Honduran counterparts throughout the friendly competition.
"This is really our way of contributing to SOUTHCOM's mission of building partner capacities," said Smith. "It also helps establish relationships that we can utilize in our day-to-day mission in the future."
By the end of the muster, all the participants had the opportunity to play firefighter for a short time. And while the competition was fun, Smith said the true purpose was to bring the spotlight to the importance of fire prevention.
"Fire Prevention Week is our time to drive home our message," he said. "It has been a very successful campaign. Since it was started in 1977, American has reduced its fire deaths by 60 percent. We try to instill fire prevention ideas into people's lives through this week's events. If nothing else, it brings fire safety to the forefront of people's minds. Given the types of buildings here on base, fire prevention is a critical function for us. Our best defense against fires here is to prevent them."