167th fire department offers training to Sugar Grove fire department

Staff Sgt. Kevin Jones of the 167th Fire Department, works with members from the Sugar Grove Fire Department on a controlled pit fire at the 167th Airlift Wing, April 6.  The pit fire, as well as a aircraft fire, are an annual requirement for the 167th fire department.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

Staff Sgt. Kevin Jones of the 167th Fire Department, works with members from the Sugar Grove Fire Department on a controlled pit fire at the 167th Airlift Wing, April 6. The pit fire, as well as a aircraft fire, are an annual requirement for the 167th fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Matt Drallette discusses fire tactics with members of the Sugar Grove Fire Department before their evolution on the simulated aircraft fire at the 167th Airlift Wing, April 6.  Members of the 167th Fire Department have to complete the burn trainer as part of an annual requirement.  Personnel from Sugar Grove FD were on base during the April unit training assembly to go over general tactics of aircraft firefighting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Matt Drallette discusses fire tactics with members of the Sugar Grove Fire Department before their evolution on the simulated aircraft fire at the 167th Airlift Wing, April 6. Members of the 167th Fire Department have to complete the burn trainer as part of an annual requirement. Personnel from Sugar Grove FD were on base during the April unit training assembly to go over general tactics of aircraft firefighting. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Dickson/Released)

Martinsburg, W.Va. -- Members of the 167th Airlift Wing's fire department and members of the Navy Information Operations Command Sugar Grove Fire Department participated in Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting training during Saturday and Sunday of April's UTA.
While they do work on a Navy installation, the Sugar Grove firefighters are non-military, federal employees.
According to Greg Feagans, a firefighter paramedic at Sugar Grove, they reached out to the 167th AW to do this training when they learned that their installation may be shut down in the near future.
"We are facing a closure of the base and when you look at jobs that are out there, you pretty much need airport firefighting certifications to be competitive," Feagans said. "We knew the Air Guard had the staffing and equipment to help us get our certification so we made a couple phone calls and reached out to the 167th."
Feagans was shocked by the willingness of the Wing to help them get their certification.
"We couldn't be happier with how these guys have treated us," Feagans said. "They have gone above and beyond to help us."
Adding: "They have treated us better than we could have imagined."
Feagans believes the ARFF training is an invaluable resource for his squad mates.
"It helps us get some real-life experience," Feagans said. "We deal with some rotary style aircraft at our base, but it's nothing like what this training simulates. Fire is fire but each situation is different and we need to be prepared for anything."
According to Master Sgt. Bruce Chrisman, the assistant training chief for the 167th AW's fire department, the wing was happy to assist their counterparts from Sugar Grove.
"It was a group effort to get this to happen," Chrisman said. "We had a lot of help from the personnel section on base who administered the certification exams; our command structure' who helped coordinate the training; and even the civilians who work the control tower on base."
Adding: "It's like our chief always says, 'One team, one fight.'"
The 167th firefighters also gained some valuable insight from their time with the training equipment, which consists of a controlled burn pit and model plane that simulate an aircraft fire.
According to Staff Sgt. Mike Frye, a 167th firefighter, the live-fire nature of the training is just one of its many benefits.
"We can go out and practice on static aircraft all the time, but you can't get the added benefit of the actual fire and heat like you do from this training," Frye said. "We don't have to deal with the wet ground or have the ability to manipulate the aircraft and the tools on a static aircraft. It's a much more realistic training environment."
The training is an annual requirement that allows the Airmen to maintain their ARFF certification.
Having the training equipment on-site rather than at a neutral location enables the Airmen to practice on their own equipment and is a huge training benefit, Chrisman said.
"The additional benefit of having this equipment here is that these are our crash-trucks and our equipment," Chrisman said. "In addition to using our own equipment, having a live-fire is more realistic than training on a static, mock plane."