Civilian Firefighters Keep Camp Safe

By Kate A. Hoit

By Kate A. Hoit / DoD Photo
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — A team of 20 civilians under the U.S. Army’s command here toil day in and day out fighting fires with Air Force personnel.

Contracted by Wackenhut Services Incorporated, the firefighters are a team assembled from throughout the United States. Their mission is to provide the installation with a full service support program ranging from fire suppression, fire prevention, aircraft rescue and firefighting, technical rescue, hazardous materials and basic life support services.

Upon their arrival in April, they replaced Soldiers who fought fires at LSA Anaconda during the previous year.

“Before the Army firefighters left, they helped us out with anything and everything we needed. From maps to tools and helping us get settled in, they were there for us,” said David Baggett, WSI firefighter.

“They also taught us tricks of the trade; because we are dealing with situations we have not seen in the ‘real world,’” he added.

The WSI team is part of two main fire departments at LSA Anaconda. WSI covers everything except the airfield, which is covered by the Air Force detachment. Each fire department has specific primary roles, but are strategic partners. For WSI, their main concern is focusing on structural fire protection, while the Air Force focuses on aircraft rescue firefighting.

In December, WSI responded to 73 incidents. They typically respond to 17 to 20 calls a week, including medical calls, hazardous material and fires.

The 20 firemen work in three different stations on camp. Their work begins at 7 a.m., when they inspect their trucks and gear. At this time, they exchange information and discuss possible training for that day. They set aside at least one hour a day for multiple types of exercises.

“Our practice ranges from structural fire, emergency medical services, equipment and mock situations training,” Baggett said. “So, many of the guys have years and years of experience, and we continue to contribute knowledge to one another. It helps with the overall operation.”

Aside from the usual building and military shipping container fires, the team also responds to calls on suspicious packages. Firefighters stand ready and await the arrival of the explosive ordnance disposal teams. Additionally when LSA Anaconda comes under hostile fire, they secure and survey the scene. The team also assists in all medical calls.

Working with the Air Force presents both sets of firefighters with unique circumstances.

“All of us come from different locations and education from around the United States,” said Bill Taylor, acting assistant chief for WSI. “One thing about firefighters, no matter were you are from, we have all come together with a common goal to provide LSA Anaconda with the most professional firefighters providing fire protection and medical care available.”

(By Spc. Kate A. Hoit, 301st Area Support Group Public Affairs Office)