Local fire departments train on F-16s

  • Published
  • By Capt. Adrianne Michele
  • 460th Space Wing
Local fire departments joined Buckley firefighters here Feb. 21 to see Air Force aircraft up close and train to respond if one of them crashed.

Aurora and Sable-Altura fire departments sent teams to the training that included classroom instruction and hands-on work with the Air National Guard's F-16 Fighting Falcons.

"We got them up in the cockpit, showed them where the emergency power unit is, the ejection seat," said Buckley Fire Chief Dennis Hoke. "They were all over the aircraft."

The jets have unique components that make emergency response a little trickier. Explosives in ejection seats and canopies, as well as jet fuel and composite materials, can create handling and inhalation hazards. The up-close training gave area firefighters a chance to add to their expertise.

"Without a doubt, it was valuable because the specialized aircraft is so unique to Buckley," said Aurora Battalion Chief Mark Stephenson. While the team has done some training with Denver International Airport, he said commercial aircraft are very different from the Air Force jets.

"The potential is definitely there," Chief Hoke said of an Air Force jet crashing in the area. "I'm very keen on working with our off-base departments so we have a plan of action way before we have an emergency."

Chief Stephenson agreed that practical experience with the jets wasn't the only benefit of the training. "The most important thing was the face-to-face relationships we could establish before an emergency happens," he said.

Mutual aid agreements help the fire departments support each other, whether that means providing a ladder truck or hazardous-materials team to assist in an emergency. "Continuing to foster that relationship is very important," Chief Hoke said.

Buckley Fire Department Training Chief James Thompson said the pace has picked up and they plan to conduct the training at least quarterly.