Ohio National Guard News

National Fire Prevention Week Oct. 7-13

Responding when the community calls:
Ohio Air National Guard firefighters provide emergency aid

Story by Stephanie Beougher, Ohio National Guard Public Affairs

fire engine spraying fire.
Ohio National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood

Airmen from the 179th Airlift Wing Fire Department, Mansfield, Ohio, conduct aircraft crash recovery training, June 4, 2018, at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Mich. Airmen use fire trucks to circle the simulated aircraft crash site and extinguish the flames created by a controlled propane live fire system. The training is focused on full spectrum readiness, preparing the wing to respond to local, state or federal activations at a moment’s notice.

Firefighters fully suited through siter haze.
Ohio National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Wendy Kuhn

Members of the 121st Air Refueling Wing and the Rickenbacker Fire Department participate in a major accident response exercise Aug. 8, 2014, at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Columbus, Ohio. The training, provided by the West Virginia Fire Service Extension, is conducted to prepare 121st ARW and RFD firefighters to appropriately respond to similar real-world events.

firefighters exit doorway.
Ohio National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hughes

Firefighters assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing exit a flashover training facility during training exercises May 7, 2018, at Owens Community College in Perrysburg, Ohio. Fire flashovers occur when the contents of a room are heated to their ignition temperatures and flames break out over the entire area almost simultaneously, and they are a leading cause of death for firefighters.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (10/09/18) — Firefighters at the Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base Fire Station were going about their normal workday on a late summer afternoon, when the relative quiet was suddenly interrupted. A computer-generated voice from the Columbus Fire Department echoes through the station’s speaker system to dispatch medical assistance at a nearby Columbus-area residence. A crew jumped into the fire engine and sped off base to respond to the call.

Ohio Air National Guard fire and emergency services (FES), such as the one at the 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker, are ready to assist civilian fire departments with medical and fire emergency support through mutual aid agreements at no cost to the local communities.

Between the FES at the 121st ARW and those at the 180th Fighter Wing located at the Toledo Express Air National Guard Base in Swanton and the 179th Airlift Wing Fire Department at the Mansfield-Lahm Air National Guard Base in Mansfield, there were nearly 500 mutual aid calls between the period of Oct. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017.

“It is important we respond to emergencies in the community to establish working relationships and common ground with our mutual aid partners personnel and emergency operations,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mark White, fire chief of the FES at Rickenbacker.

Ohio Air National Guard FES teams, staffed by both Guard members and their full-time civilian counterparts, train to similar standards as those of the local community fire departments. The difference is their specialized training to handle unique hazards that come with aircraft and military munitions.

At the 179th Airlift Wing Fire Department, Senior Master Sgt. Brad Brammer, deputy fire chief, said a majority of their firefighters have completed apprentice firefighter training at the Department of Defense Fire Academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas.

“Our firefighters are called on not only for daily emergencies in our community but also for humanitarian missions and contingency operations. Because of this, our training has to be of the utmost quality and continue through the entirety of our careers,” according to Brammer.

Firefighting capabilities at each FES include water trucks, called tenders, capable of hauling several thousand gallons of water, which can be essential for fire emergencies in rural areas without fire hydrants.

“Several years ago we responded to a mutual aid call with a local fire department for an outdoor fire that was out of control. The fire had spread to about four acres of woods,” recalled Chief Master Sgt. Brian Rozick, fire chief of the 180th Fighter Wing FES. “We provided much needed manpower, an engine and a water tender. Our assets helped stop the spread of fire from continuing through the wooded area and adjacent structures.”

While the 178th Wing at the Springfield-Beckley Air National Guard Base in Springfield does not currently have a full-time fire mission, it does have search and rescue capabilities that can be activated for natural disasters and large-scale emergencies.

“Ohio Air National Guard firefighters are some of the most qualified and trained firefighters you will find in any department worldwide,” said Tech Sgt. Kevin McNamara, a traditional Guard member and firefighter at the 178th Wing for 17 years. “Additional training such as rope rescue, trench rescue, and hazmat technician allows us to be a Swiss-army knife of the fire service, filling in many roles.”

Mansfield Fire Department Chief Steve Strickling has been impressed with the National Guard’s willingness to help in any situation.

“Partnering with the Ohio Air National Guard fire emergency services allows us to use our resources more appropriately in our geographical regions of coverage,” Strickling said. “The airport and the industrial complexes that surround it are able to be served in a mutual aid arrangement with the Air National Guard acting as first responders to that region of the city. This takes much of the stress off the municipal fire stations within the city that are responding to this area from remote locations.”

Chief Joshua Hartbarger has been with the Whitehouse Fire Department in Lucas County for 17 years, and has found the partnership with the 180th Fighter Wing FES to be beneficial.

“The Air Guard contributes a depth in specialized training (that) smaller communities are unable to provide. For instance, the technical rescue and hazmat knowledge by their department is second to none. Having that resource less than 10 minutes away from us is invaluable,” Hartbarger said.

The total number of mutual-aid assistance calls by Guard FES units for this year had topped more than 300 as of early August. As residents of the community in which they serve, Ohio Air National Guard fire and emergency services units are ready to respond when the next call for emergency aid comes in from local fire departments.


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