By Spc. Anna-Marie Hizer, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
KIRKUK, Iraq – Black smoke rolled across the sky as orange flames danced and leaped, playing in the thick fog. Soldiers from Forward Operating Base Warrior’s Ivory Combat Clinic, along with civilians from Readiness Management Support, rushed forward with hand lines, extinguishing the blaze in less than 10 minutes.
Not many personnel outside of the fire station can say they helped put out a 200-gallon fuel fire. But today a few 1st Brigade Combat Team medics, along with power plant employees, were able to do just that, thanks to the crew of Fire Station One – the crew responsible for the FOB.
“How many people get to say they put out a pit fire in Iraq?” said Spc. Amanda Lavers, Company C, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division.
The training was set up by Air Force Staff Sgt. Charles Shank, a Montana Air National Guardsman assigned to 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron.
Shank said the team at ICC had helped him when he needed dental treatment and he wanted to return the favor – by offering them a unique training experience.
“We use the pit fire to stay current on our job skills,” he said. “And here, there is a bonus … we get to burn with real fuel, not propane like they have to use in the states … so you’re really putting out that fire.”
Before going near the fire personnel were fully briefed on safety issues as well as the equipment they would be using, including the fire suits that would protect them from the near 2,000 degree blaze.
“It’s a rush … you can actually stand that close and you don’t feel anything,” said Army Sgt. Kenneth Smith, Co. C, 426th BSB. “I have a new respect for firefighters now.”
For the small group of civilians going through fire pit training, the fuel fire hit a little closer to home – the RMS employees work with fuel on a daily basis and wanted to gain an understanding of what could happen if something went wrong.
“More than anything, its gaining knowledge of what can happen,” said Dale Sells, RMS. “Now we know to stand back and let the professionals handle it.”
Shank said they occasionally let other groups go through this training but the pit and the small structure fire setup the team has on site were built to help keep Airmen-firefighters proficient on their skills.
“We don’t get to use our skills very often out here – thankfully,” Shank said. “So we had to do something … to keep trained up.”