Malmstrom AFB Joins Gibson Flats Firefighting> Air Force> Post Display

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It only takes a spark to start a fire, but sometimes, to put out one, it takes the coordination and cooperation of more than 100 first responders from nearly a dozen agencies.

One such event was the Gibson Flats fire, which broke out just outside Great Falls on December 1. The blaze reached about 120 acres and was the second response in a week for the Malmstrom Air Base Fire Department, the first being an off-base fire at Thanksgiving.

“The high winds that were blowing at 56 miles an hour and the plentiful supply of dry fuels prolonged by the drought conditions in central Montana resulted in a catastrophic combination,” said David Sidle, firefighter with 341 Squadron. civil engineering. “Many residents woke up in the middle of the night and had only a few moments to evacuate away from the firestorm that was rolling down a small hill at the back of the community. “

Technology. Sgt. 341st CES firefighter Joseph Cappel said he got the call around 3 a.m. so he got out of bed and walked over to the station to get ready and head to Gibson Flats.

“We didn’t really know the extent of the fire at the time,” he said. “We went up the hill and I’m telling you, it looked like a lake of fire. “

Cappel added that upon arrival, another firefighter already on site told him that if the fire had blown into the street, it could head straight for the city and for the hospital.

Malmstrom AFB sent six vehicles with 35 firefighters to fight alongside Great Falls Fire Rescue, the Montana Air National Guard, several local volunteer fire departments and other local emergency responders. Together, they put out the fire in about 12 hours.

“Many of them arrived on their day off to go to work and excited to help with the emergency response in our community,” said Lt. Col. Kirk Greene, 341st CES commander and commissioner. Malmstrom Air Force Base fires.

With sustained wind speeds of over 30 miles per hour and frequent gusts of over 50 miles per hour that morning, the wildfire within two miles of the edge of Great Falls could be even more devastating without it. teamwork and coordination.

“In small communities such as Cascade County, a big response like this can only come from a strong volunteer base,” said Sidle.

With an area of ​​responsibility of 13,800 square miles and the farthest launch facility 152 miles away, the Malmstrom Fire Department relies on local partners just as much as local partners rely on them. There are currently 48 memoranda of understanding filed with local agencies within the missile complex and this year the fire department responded to 20 mutual aid calls, including the Gibson Flats fire.

“We train our local services and we integrate with them. So it’s not a new experience when we meet them in the real world, ”said Vern Hubka, 341st CES Acting Fire Chief.

Malmstrom AFB firefighters work 48-hour shifts to answer calls or use time spent at the fire station to train so they are always ready.

“We are training constantly,” said Hubka. “We have great instructors and leaders in our fire department who take the time to ensure our young Airmen are best equipped for real world events. “

For some of the new airmen, this was their first experience fighting a fire.

Firefighting aviators spent months in basic military training and then technical school where they obtained national certifications in structural firefighting, hazardous materials, medical response, and firefighting. fires at airports. Upon completion of their training, Airmen should be able to provide a range of fire and emergency services, including search and rescue, and respond to structural fires, fires forest, hazardous material incidents, vehicle accidents and more.

“New airmen fresh out of the Department of Defense Fire Academy are ready for action,” said Sidle. “After arriving at their first duty station, firefighters continue their certification and training process by upgrading their skills and learning advanced skills in medicine, rescue and hazardous materials. “

Airman 1st Class Logan Sims, a 341st CES firefighter, who has only been in the Air Force for 11 months and just completed his technical training in July, said that although he was new to the strength, he was ready for anything.

“When it’s all happening at the same time – wilderness, structure, cars going out, it’s intimidating, but you’re up for it,” Sims said. “I was not afraid. I had full confidence in everyone I was with. They had my back as I had theirs.


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