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NEWS | Nov. 13, 2020

At port or on dry land, fire department will defend

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Firefighters assigned to the 733d Civil Engineer Division’s Fort Eustis Fire Department conducted a live-fire exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Nov. 9, 2020.

The training occurred on a mock-up ship close to Third Port, where numerous logistics support vessels are docked. Participants in the exercise aimed to enhance their ability to fight fires on vessels.

“We do this twice a year at a minimum,” said Shannon Anderson, 733d CED assistant fire chief of operations. “This is one of the critical missions we perform here for Third Port operations. The importance of this is [so we are ready] to provide any type of emergency services for marine vessels stationed here at Fort Eustis.”

Anderson added that although his team does not respond to calls for vessel fires very often, they are still charged with preparing for such incidents.

While the crews of the LSVs are trained to fight fires while out at sea, the 733d CED fire department is responsible for responding to fires which occur at the port.

The mock-up vessel is owned by the U.S. Army’s Maritime & Intermodal Training Department, which trains future Army mariners. The training apparatus included built-in fire and smoke machines, making the training environment as realistic as possible.

The firefighters played through three different scenarios during the exercise: a galley fire, an engine fire and a fire in the living quarters. Mannequins simulated victims of the fires.

“We always want to practice like we play so that when we’re exhausted during a real emergency, we always revert back to that muscle memory,” said Nickolus Morejon, 733d CED emergency medical technician firefighter. “The only thing different here is that we don’t actually have a person’s life on the line. There is a little less stress, but we still have a heightened sense of alertness. This is all about building trust in our skills and our brethren.”

Morejon described poor visibility as one of the most challenging aspects of fighting a fire. During fires, smoke obscures vision and renders the landscape practically indiscernible. More often than not, the smoke becomes so thick people would not be able to see their hand in front of their face.

Radio communications can become inaudible at certain times during the emergency. Therefore, firefighters have to rely on their other senses and also their teammates to help them navigate the unrecognizable and ever-changing terrain of a burning location.

Firefighters also use technology such as thermal-imaging cameras to navigate the area and locate possible victims.

“We often don’t rely on our vision,” said Morejon. “When you go down there, with all the fire and noise, even radio chatter can sound minimal. The big part of this is using your senses, using your training and trusting the guys that are with you. That’s why when we do this, we’re pushing past our limit so when we’re exhausted and our backs are against the wall, we know we can trust the person to our front and back.”

Anderson emphasized his team’s readiness to tackle any type of emergency, and assured the community that no matter the circumstance, the firefighters will not be taken by surprise.

“I am 150 percent confident in my team that we can fight any type of fire we encounter,” said Anderson. “I am very blessed to be a leader of one of the many outstanding teams here. The Joint Base Langley-Eustis Fire Department is here 24 hours a day to protect you and your well-being.”