|Story & photos by Tom Michele, Eagle Systems &
U.S. Army Reserve Soldier firefighters face challenges
those who serve in the comforts of home stations and civilian life
Chief Warrant Officer 3 John Fritz said his firefighters may have to
overcome the lack of water hydrant systems, alarm systems and 9-1-1
phone systems, “plus there may be hostile people shooting at you.”
Firefighters use a water hose
line to attack the flames billowing out of the simulated
aircraft fuselage at the Volk Field Fire Training Facility. The
firefighters are with the 614th Engineer Detachment
(Firefighting Team), from Yakima, Wash.
Fritz is the commander of Headquarters Company, 323rd Engineers
(Firefighting Headquarters). Four personnel from the 323rd and seven
personnel from the 614th Engineer Detachment (Firefighting Team),
trained at Fort McCoy to deploy in support of Operation Enduring
The 323rd is from El Dorado, Kan., and the 614th from Yakima, Wash.
“The Soldier-firefighter is both a Soldier and a firefighter,” Fritz
said. “They perform two skill sets — the professional firefighter who
concentrates on a fire incident, and a Soldier in combat.”
Staff Sgt. Rich McDoniel, noncommissioned officer-in-charge and fire
chief of the 323rd, said his firefighters mostly are stationed on large
contingency operating locations and normally don’t go “outside the
At Fort McCoy, the firefighters completed weapons qualification,
combat life saving, base defense tactics, techniques and procedures and
situational training exercises on the installation’s ranges. The mission
rehearsal exercise was military occupational specialty specific —
Extrication of crash-test dummies from two junked cars was
accomplished at Contingency Operating Location Freedom at Fort McCoy.
Firefighters from the 614th
Engineer Detachment (Firefighting Team) use hydraulic cutting
tools, including the Jaws of Life on the right, to cut off
hoods, door hinges and roof posts on a vehicle at Fort McCoy’s
Contingency Operating Location Freedom.
Training also included scenarios at Volk Field’s Fire Training
Facility at a “burn house” and a simulated large cargo aircraft
“The importance of our work in-theater is that we provide
fire-protection service at base camps, forward operating bases and
contingency operating locations,” McDoniel said.
Aircraft crash-rescue firefighting is a demanding mission, McDoniel
said. Although the emphasis is on helicopters, firefighters also must be
familiar with fixed-wing aircraft. Most aircraft use a more-flammable
fuel than ground vehicles and require additional attention during
fueling and defueling operations. Attack aircraft are twice as
dangerous, since onboard fuel, electrical accessories, and landing
impact have the capability of detonating ordnance on the aircraft.
The structural firefighting mission encompasses protecting static
objects, such as tents, houses, barns, and other buildings. Firefighting
crews require the skills to quickly position equipment and locate water
sources, vent buildings, and search for victims in smoke-filled
McDoniel said the unit also has a fire- prevention mission, which is
similar to their civilian counterparts.
During combat operations, Army firefighters provide aid to host nation
fire departments and protect ammunition; petroleum, oil and lubricant
storage sites; motor pools; and internment or dislocated-civilian camps.