YOUNGSTOWN AIR RESERVE STATION, Ohio --
Two trucks are already on the scene as flames engulf the rusted wreckage. Equipment dawned, the firefighters stand behind a concrete ring, ready and waiting for the order to let loose a torrent of water.
About 40 Rickenbacker Air National Guard firefighters came to the 910th Airlift Wing, Sept. 8-10, 2020, to do their annual live-fire training at Youngstown Air Reserve Station’s firefighter training area, known locally as the burn pit.
The firefighters were broken up into groups of about 13, each group attending one of the three days of training. Rickenbacker’s Citizen Airmen and a few YARS Airmen repeatedly fought internal and external aircraft fires, valve-controlled by the fire department’s assistant chiefs, who lowered or increased the blaze depending on how well each team addressed the flame.
“It gets hot in there,” said Rick Hare, YARS’s assistant fire chief. “The first group, it’s not too bad, but the second and third, depending on how many groups there are, that steel holds the heat. It gets toasty.”
Rickenbacker’s firefighters aren’t the only ones utilizing the training area. The 910th Civil Engineer Squadron has a partnership with Toledo Express Air National Guard Base and Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base.
Mutual assistance is commonplace between the Department of Defense’s fire departments due to a strong camaraderie built while attending technical school together. The younger members trained at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and the more veteran members went to Chanute Air Force Base, Illinois.
“We all chewed the same dirt,” said Denise Atkins, Rickenbacker’s assistant fire chief. “It’s a brotherhood. We’re all wearing a blue uniform (YARS, RANGB and TEANGB)… and some of them are green (MANG).”
After a while, the valves close and the fire finally stops. Water is blasted onto the hot steel and steam fills the area where the fire once raged. Should the need arise, these firefighters will be better-prepared to respond.