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800 degrees and rising

325th Civil Engineer Squadron

325th Civil Engineer Squadron

TYNDALL AFB, Fla. -- Many children grow up always wanting to be firefighters.

They dream of rescuing a person stuck in a bedroom of a burning house, but no one realizes how much more firemen actually do. Fighting fires is just one part of their job.
Here, firefighters get called out to aircraft complications, car accidents and medical emergencies.

"Whenever there is a problem with an aircraft, we're there first," said Airman 1st Class Craig Cook, 325th Civil Engineer Squadron fire protection specialist. "Many times we go out and everything is fine, but it's a safety precaution. By keeping pilots and aircraft maintainers out of danger, the mission is able to continue."

When firefighters aren't on the flightline inspecting aircraft, they're waiting to help save lives in car accidents. That doesn't mean accidents just on base.

"We go to all accidents from the Dupont Bridge to Mexico Beach, along U.S. Highway 98," said Airman Cook. "Even if the individual is not associated with the military we're there to get the person to safety. We respond no matter who is involved."

When not responding to a call, firefighters are back at the station preparing for the next call.

"Every day we have certain responsibilities. Throughout the course of the week, we make sure all of our equipment is working correctly on the trucks and wash them, keep the station clean, and advance our training for fires, medical emergencies and confine space emergencies," said Airman Cook.

Training for firefighters doesn't just mean completing a written test or reading books. It can be a extremely physically demanding.

"We simulate fires to learn how we can fight them better and sharpen the skills we have. There isn't a fire every day, so we need practice to be able to perform when the time comes," said Airman Cook.

"We practice rescuing people with plastic and rubber dummies. We practice how to pick them up or carry them. To help the training feel more real, the dummies have some weight to them. A dummy can range between 145-265 pounds," said Airman Cook.

While training, firefighters are in full gear. Firefighters have bunker gear, which is three layers of flame retardant material used for basic structural fires. Crash gear is used for oil fires or other materials that cause extreme temperatures. The final suit is their chemical gear or J-fire suit. Firefighters wear the chemical gear in training exercises or deployed locations. Firefighters wear their crash suits over their chemical gear for protection against fire.

"We always have to wear one set of gear even if the call is for an accident or medical emergency," said Airman Cook. "The gear can add about 20 degrees to the temperature and if you're fighting a fire it gets extremely hot."

If the gear doesn't make them hot enough, the temperature of the flames surely will. Wood fires average between 800- 900 degrees Fahrenheit and oil fires reach 2,900-3,600 degrees Fahrenheit. Even after firefighters extinguish the fire, their day isn't over. They go back to the station for the remainder of their shift.

Firefighters work between three and four 24-hour shifts a week. It may not sound too bad because other jobs consist of five or six day weeks. Firefighters basically get every other day off, but totaling their hours a firefighter works an average of 150 hours every two weeks.

"We keep going because we know our job is mission critical," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Dimauro, 325th CES lead firefighter. "It isn't just a job for us; it's a way of life. There are rough long days, but it's what we do."