Story by Blake Miller
Under the direction of Chief Davis, the Mount Weather Fire Department trains regularly to maintain a state of certified readiness. Preparedness is maintained through drills and exercises that present real world type situations that they may need to respond to. This could range from a wildfire on Mount Weather, a multi-vehicle accident, an overturned gas truck or a multiple alarm building fire.
In fact, it is possible that they may even have to respond to a plane crash. On May 15-16 the Mount Weather Fire Department took part in a “live burn” training exercise at Dulles International Airport. Twenty-nine Mount Weather firefighters enhanced their ability to assist in an aircraft crash scenario.
This type of training prepares them to respond to helicopters and airplanes that have gone down, either on their own or by helping fire departments from other municipalities. In fire department terminology, a “live burn” is an exercise that gives firefighters the chance to respond to a real working fire.
According to Mount Weather Assistant Fire Chief Dave Smith, this “live burn” event was a great training opportunity. “It gives us hands on, live-fire experience,” he said. “We responded to a fire on a mock 737 aircraft. There were scenarios where the engine was on fire as well as the plane itself, and we had to board the aircraft to put out those fires.”
There was fire on both the interior and exterior of the plane. Aviation fuel is highly flammable and can spread quickly.
The Mount Weather team responded by using hose lines to put out the fires on different parts of the simulated plane crash. They practiced boarding the plane and navigating through the heavy smoke that surrounded and engulfed the 737 aircraft. The all-day event was something that Smith hopes to repeat in the future. “We’d like to do this on an annual basis,” he said.
These training opportunities demonstrate the Mount Weather Fire Department’s commitment to readiness. Exercises like this “live burn” keep the firefighters sharp and at the top of their game, and if they have to respond to an aircraft crash, they’ll be prepared.