CHARLOTTE, NC, UNITED STATES
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - At the recent reception for the pinning of Maj. Gen. Robert Stonestreet, I heard in passing, “They’re going to catch Col. Daughtry, his XO and First Shirt on fire.” As a DoD trained Public Affairs professional this sounded like news to me. I hurried to find the source of these statements, to determine their truth and possibly alert the authorities. As it turns out, the authorities were in on it.
Upon taking command of the 145 Mission Support Group, Col. Hugh Daughtry wanted to increase his knowledge of what his Civil Engineering Squadron did and went through. “I had experience with FSS, LRS and Comm.; and I was least familiar with CE. I put out a challenge to Lt. Col. (Gregory) Walters to help me experience what his people go through” said Col. Daughtry. “I wanted to get a feel for their job.”
One of the “experiences” Walters arranged was for Daughtry to go through a structural live burn exercise. Here firefighters set a controlled blaze in a structure and practice searching for victims while handling firefighting equipment in a hot, smoke filled environment. This was the first fire at the new training structure. Base Fire Chief, Daryl Cook would lead Daughtry, his Executive Officer, 2nd Lt. Karen Weimorts, and his First Shirt, Master Sgt. Tracie Rankin into the “burning” building and spray some water around.
Their first task was to suite up. Each donned thick silver pants, insulated rubber boots, thick silver jacket, full faced SCUBA looking mask, NASCAR looking head sock, heavy helmet with shield, commercial grade oven mitts and a backpack with an air tank. Just getting ready gave them even more respect for firefighters. Dressed as if for the North Pole, these guys wear this into an oven?
As the group entered the building, the supporting firefighters had set the fire in another room behind a closed door and prepositioned the fire hose so they wouldn’t need to drag that through the building. Relatively clear of smoke, this is where Cook explained how the firefighters sweep a room in low to no visibility, while remaining in contact with each other as well as not becoming disoriented. The group went through the door and crawled toward the fire.
Behind door number two, the prize. In a large metal basket, the firefighters had set ablaze several pallets and hay bales. The smoke was thick halfway down the wall, but the air was relatively clear below that. Cook explained the heat and smoke are higher in the room, which is why they have been crawling through the structure.
Next Cook offered some experience spraying the fire. On the floor in 62 lbs. of gear, this was still a bit of a challenge, and when the water hit the fire, this posed even more issues. He explained that, “When the water hits the flame, the water expands into steam. These molecules are larger than the air molecules and push the heat and smoke to the floor.” This caused limited visibility, no more than a foot or two off the floor.
Someone in the group asked, “What would happen if we didn’t have this gear on.” Cook replied, “If you stood up and took your mask off, your face would melt off.” Weimorts commented on how well the suit worked. Cook then explained, “Because the suits are so effective, firefighters have to be cautious of a false sense of security. You could be in a room with no smoke, but could still be hotter than an oven.”
After exiting the building, the team began to take off all of their gear.
Now that he’s been through the exercise, excited and smiling, Daughtry said, “It’s impressive what they do.”
Weimorts continued, “What firefighters go through… go in with low visibility and do their job [saving lives and property]… it’s incredible.”
||CHARLOTTE, NC, US
This work, Col. Daughtry and His Staff are Set Ablaze, by Capt. Michael Wilber, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.