Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras –
Firefighters from the 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Department, Joint Task Force-Bravo, conducted a live fire training June 16, 2017 here, to practice their skills and provide awareness to the Soto Cano population.
The training consisted of burning down building Q22, a wooden hooch as they are commonly known on base, using a controlled burn caused by a mattress fire.
“We wanted to bring awareness to the entire Soto Cano population on how quickly one of these wooden hooches could go up,” said Master Sgt. Corey Coleman, assistant chief of fire prevention and officer in charge of coordinating the event. “Many of us work in them or have lived in them at one point.”
Training began with Coleman lighting a mattress inside the wooden building. Once the temperature inside reached its maximum capacity everything self-ignited causing a flash-over and first responders were called to action.
The training had several different angles which included the participation of Joint Security Forces, Medical Element and the 612th Air Base Squadron Fire Emergency Services team.
“This exercise allowed our firefighters to train with live fires and to bring all first responders, JSF, MEDEL and Fire Department together out on scene because in an actual fire we would all three respond and work under one incident commander,” said Coleman.
Approximately 30 personnel from the Soto Cano Fire Department participated in the response, as well as MEDEL medics and military police from JSF who blocked the streets and ensured attendees remained in safe areas.
Since these buildings could be easily ignited due to electrical issues or unapproved cooking appliances, safety measures are strictly implemented on Soto Cano.
“I would advise people to maintain house cleaning and properly store any hazmat materials at work and living quarters to prevent a fire and also to be familiar with fire extinguishers capabilities and inspections,” said Mr. Jaime Morales, JTF-Bravo safety director.
For training purposes, Coleman allowed the fire to run out for more than an hour but in a real life situation the Fire Department is prepared to extinguish a fire within minutes.
The exercise also included the participation of Honduran Firefighters who came out to witness the training. Once the building completely burned down they were escorted into the area and examined it to perform an investigation of the origin of the fire.
“They got quite a bit of training out of that because at the end they came back to me and provided the details of what they thought and they were spot on,” said Coleman, “They knew exactly where the fire started, what caused it, the burn pattern and identified the mattress, so it was training all around.”
What started as just training for the firefighters turned into a presentation for all military and civilian personnel across the base, encouraging them to learn more on fire prevention after witnessing not only how quickly these fires happen but also how the 612th firefighters do their job.
“It’s very important to bring awareness to the public, you never want to have a fire in your house but by us doing this training we provided a real sense of urgency. If you sense smoke or see fire you need to contact 911 and get out of the building,” said Coleman.
Coleman was also appreciative of the support provided by Garrison Commander Col. Kevin McAninch who allowed them to burn down the building scheduled for demolition.
“It’s only a matter of time before you are overcome with smoke, heat and the flames,” said Coleman, “We don’t hope for fires but when fires do happen we want to get there as soon as possible, extinguish the fires quickly and save any lives that may be in danger.”
Due to strict preventive measures and constant training, no real incidents such as this one have been reported on Soto Cano Air Base to date.