PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. –Fire protection Airmen from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron train for aircraft fire scenarios Aug. 7, 2019, on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The firefighters practiced on a mock aircraft structure that is surrounded by a pool of water. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew Bertain)
Story by Airman 1st Class Andrew Bertain, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- When a person thinks of firefighters, he or she might conjure images of burning buildings, big red trucks or cats stuck in trees, but the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron fire department knows there’s a lot more to a fire department than what meets the eye. The 99 firefighters on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, train every day to be able to respond at a moment’s notice. They know how to handle every kind of scenario, from performing first aid to responding to a crashed aircraft.
“Once you reach staff sergeant, most of us have our airport and structural firefighting, emergency medical responder, emergency medical technician and hazmat technician certifications as well as wildland, ice water, swift water, high-angle and rope rescue certifications,” said Staff Sgt. Zachary Baldwin, 21st CES Fire Protection crew chief. “We kind of have to be jacks-of-all-trades.”
Not only do firefighters have a lot of situations to prepare for, but the 21st CES firefighters also have a lot of ground to cover.
“Every single firefighter assigned here and at [Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station] are staffed 24/7 and are prepared to respond to any emergency on or off base,” said Master Sgt. David Webster, 21st CES fire protection flight superintendent. “Besides [Peterson AFB], we also support Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and miles and miles of wildlands, and we are also the Colorado Springs Airport’s sole fire support.”
Despite these challenges, Peterson AFB was named the best fire protection in Air Force Space Command in 2017, and in 2018 Cheyenne Mountain AFS earned the title of the best small fire station in the U.S. Air Force.
Firefighters not only need to constantly improve their education and career, but it is also critical for them to maintain their physical fitness. These Airmen have to be able to act swiftly while wearing gear that weighs anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds, not to mention having to be able to carry people, climb ladders and operate heavy machinery.
“At the end of the day, no one wants to look a person’s family in the eye and say they weren’t physically fit enough to get them out,” said Baldwin.
Webster said that no matter what the emergency, he trusts his wingmen are up to the task.
“I am 100 percent confident in my firefighters,” said Webster. “If anyone calls on their worst day, every single firefighter here is going to answer that call of duty and take care of you and the emergency.”
To report a fire emergency call 911.