MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. - The Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Fire Department is preparing to tackle a common summertime foe: wildland fires. The firefighters of Engines 60 and 61 conducted wildland fire suppression training aboard MCAS Miramar Feb. 13.
According to Daniel Hernandez, assistant fire chief and proctor for this evaluation, this develops particularly important skill sets for Southern California firefighters.
“During just about every wildland fire I’ve ever been around, in one way or another we’re using water tenders and engines for any type of fire suppression,” said Hernandez.
Water tenders are portable containers used as temporary water sources, much like the way fire engines are employed. Both are crucial in battling wildland fires because they provide alternate and refillable sources of water.
“In California, you’re not just a structural firefighter,” said James Stark, firefighter, who is training to be an operator for one of the water tender vehicles. “I know it’s February, but the winter is the time when we need to sharpen our skills because in the summer, we don’t have time to practice.”
Stark is responsible for driving the water tender between engines and ensuring they are able to supply water to suppress the fire.
“It’s important to be good and proficient at my job because people rely on us so you want to be good at it you don’t want to be just okay,” said Stark.
Supplying those water tenders is particularly crucial and a bit of a difficult task aboard MCAS Miramar.
“It’s a very real scenario,” said Hernandez. “We don’t have very many hydrants out in east Miramar, so water supply is pretty scarce out there. If we had a large fire, we would have many water tenders out there to shuttle water and keep engines filled so we can actually use the hose lines to put out the fire.”
Shaun Fick, firefighter, is training to be a certified fire officer. A firefighter in this position has the strategic and tactical responsibilities of overseeing ground operations and ensuring a constant flow of water.
“This training is going to make (me) a better firefighter with the ability to see the bigger picture,” said Fick. “I’m not focused on one task; I have to be able to see all the tasks and be able to delegate and direct my subordinates to accomplish certain tasks in missions, i.e., put the fire out.”
With limited fire hydrants aboard MCAS Miramar, Fick plays a pivotal role in supervising the use of water sources when battling a fire.
“The most important thing is resource management,” said Fick. “That means being able to ensure all my resources are being used to their maximum capacity and basically that I don’t run out of water and everything runs smoothly.”
After the drill, Fick became a certified fire officer one and eligible to be promoted to engineer. All trainees completed the wildland fire suppression training evolution twice.
“Our main function is to protect lives and property,” said Hernandez. “For any type of the wildland fires that actually come on the instillation, we’re responsible and were the frontline to protect the base to mitigate the fires.”