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Mirarmar Air Station Firefighters Train Against Jet Fuel Flames

Credit: MCAS Miramar

Members of the Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting unit at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar practice extinguishing flames from a jet fuel fire, Oct. 19, 2013.

On a hot October day, Cpl. Cameron Arthur and more than a dozen crew members sparked a series of fires with more than one thousand gallons of jet fuel. The Saturday morning blazes at Marine Corps Miramar Air Station sent plumes of black smoke into the air visible from surrounding communities.

But on the ground, Arthur said things were under control — the fuel fires were part of monthly training exercises to keep Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting unit members comfortable in their heavy gear.

The team practiced in a large concrete pit far from brush, Arthur said.

"What we're doing is basically using water to push the fuel — 'cause the fuel sits on top of the water — and we're pushing the fuel along the fuselage of the aircraft to the back of the pit and then we're working together as a team to put that out," he said.

The unit rotated positions during the series of fuel fires to become familiar with each role. According to Arthur, flames reached 25 to 30 feet.

The crew burned a total of 1,200 gallons of jet fuel during the exercise, he said.

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Avatar for user 'SDforward'

SDforward | October 20, 2013 at 1:47 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Really? In order to be comfortable in heavy gear, they need to burn 1,200 gallons of expensive, polluting, and carbon-intensive jet fuel?

Another example of no one keeping the military in check, and another reason military bases should be out of densely populated and beautiful San Diego. I was against the shutdown, but stuff like this makes me wonder how else to stop spending taxpayer money on harmful waste like this...

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Avatar for user 'arff7051dawg'

arff7051dawg | October 22, 2013 at 10:44 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

SDforward, Yes, really. No it's not just so they can be "comfortable" in heavy gear. We do other, non-burning, exercises to do that. But working in intense fires with the aluminized gear does, indeed, help build a level of confidence in the gear's ability to protect.

You question the need to burn 1200 gallons of fuel, but if you were the pilot or a crew member, or a passenger aboard an aircraft that crashed, you would be thankful for the training that our Marines endure if you were one that was saved because of their efforts. Because many aircraft (most, actually) carry a lot more fuel than that. When your aircraft goes down, you don't want those who are charged with going in and saving your life to cower down because they aren't used to fighting these types of fires. You want them to be so used to it that they don't hesitate one second to run in and save you from the closest thing to hell that you may ever experience before you die.

In addition to us aircraft firefighters wanting to be confident in our abilities, we have regulations that MANDATE that we conduct monthly training fires, for the very reason I just mentioned that firefighters don't hesitate, are not intimidated, and are capable of doing their job if and when the time comes.

As for densely populated areas, you get more pollution every day from the vehicles there in San Diego than you will from one monthly training fire. Additionally, you speak as if an aircraft has never crashed in densely populated areas. Sure, regular firefighters can do the job if needed, but a specialized crew will be much more efficient, and will save more lives and protect more property from damage due to their level of training. So I'd be glad that you have a great resource in your midst to handle precisely these types of incidents.

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Avatar for user 'arff7051dawg'

arff7051dawg | October 22, 2013 at 10:53 p.m. ― 3 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and SDforward, that was about 1200 gallons, TOTAL. That picture you are looking at is probably between 100 and 200 gallons. See how big the flames are? Now imagine a Boeing 747-400 crashing with over 60,000 gallons on board. So 1200 gallons, broken up into a dozen fires seems rather small. But because the military IS in check, contrary to what you said, we don't have the money to burn 1200 gallons for each fire. But boy, would we love to have a training fire that big! Even one time a year. But we are fiscally restrained, and therefore have to make do with a rather insignificant fire to conduct our training.

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