Grissom Air Reserve Base --
There’s nothing like a 75-foot tornado of fire coming from a fuel tanker truck to make an incident commander look for mutual aid options.
That was the scenario June 19, when the Kokomo Fire Department came upon a tanker truck fire on U.S. 31 North in Kokomo, Indiana.
At approximately 10:45 p.m. that night a semi-trailer carrying gasoline caught fire when the trailer brakes locked up. The driver called 911 and Kokomo first responders arrived on scene to see the fire had spread from the brakes to the trailer filled with gasoline.
Kokomo’s incident commander then requested mutual aid from the Grissom Fire Department.
“Mutual aid was requested from Grissom due to our resources, including aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles with foam capability,” said John Ireland, Grissom fire chief.
Grissom responded to the request with six firefighters and three vehicles, Crash 3 and Tanker 10, both heavily equipped fire trucks designed to combat a variety of scenarios including an aircraft incident, and a command vehicle.
“The tanker was leaking fuel onto the roadway with streams of fire going in different directions on both sides of the tanker,” said Jason Cahill, Grissom firefighter.
With Cahill and John Denham working the bumper and roof turrets Grissom was able to suppress both of the running fuel fires with a foam/water mixture.
“One of the challenges we faced was the location of the incident,” Cahill said. “We didn’t have access to a continuous water supply.”
Crash 3 made an extensive initial attack with 1,500 gallons mixed with the foam concentrate, while Tanker 10 came behind and resupplied Crash 3 with an additional 4,000 gallons of water.
Once all the water on site was used, a Howard County Water Tanker Task Force, established a water shuttle to help keep the Crash 3 stay on the attack.
With the running fuel lines extinguished, Crash 3 switched its attack to focus on the tanker trailer itself to extinguish the source of the fire.
“We were able to knock down the ‘seat’ of the fire in a relatively short period of time,” Cahill said.
With the fires knocked down, a waiting game began.
“We had to ensure that the foam blanket we put down was enough to contain fuel vapors from re-igniting from the heat that remained in the burned materials,” Cahill said.
Battling the blaze, Grissom used approximately 5,000 gallons of water with a mixture of 130 gallons of aqueous film forming foam.
After waiting until things cooled down, Grissom fire was released from the scene and it was turned over to the Indiana Environmental Protection Agency and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for proper decontamination and restoration of the area.
“Events like this are why mutual aid agreements are very important to each department,” Ireland said. “They allow federal fire departments such as Grissom to use resources and manning of installation personnel and equipment. Emergencies like this one are so large in scale that it takes multi-jurisdictional responses to mitigate them.”
Grissom’s fire department is manned 24-7 ensuring the safety and protection of the 434th Air Refueling Wing’s 16 KC-135R Stratotankers.
Mutual aid agreements not only help to serve the local community but also help keep Grissom firefighters trained.
“Responding off-base exposes our members to different types of emergencies that may not routinely happen on the installation,” Cahill added.
“Given the fuel load of a Stratotanker, in the tragic event of a KC-135 fire, the tactics used on this semi-truck tanker fire are nearly identical to the tactics that would be used in combatting an aircraft fire,” he added.
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135 unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.
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