Story and photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagan
2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, completed a weeklong training course on incipient firefighting and safety at Camp Nathan Smith Feb. 3.
“We’ve put together a comprehensive course on firefighting and safety,” said Charles Olson, a civilian fire inspector and instructor brought in to teach the fire brigade. “So, even if the guys didn’t have any previous fire training or experience, by the end, they will be able to fight incipient fires.”
An incipient fire is one in its beginning stage that can be controlled with a portable fire extinguisher or small hose system.
“In case there’s a fire (the fire brigade) will respond with the equipment they’ve been trained on,” Olson said. “They will implement defensive firefighting procedures and tactics.”
“If it’s past the incipient phase, we’ll cordon off the area and prevent the fire from spreading by putting up a water curtain using the fire truck,” said Spc. Koran Payton, a supply specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 4th Inf. Div.
The CNS fire brigade has two types of vehicles it can employ in the event of a fire. The first is the Compressed Air Foam System that is mounted on the back of a utility vehicle. The CAFS is a 60-gallon tank containing compressed foam and water designed to suppress fire.
The brigade also employs a sand-colored fire truck, sent to operations in Afghanistan from Iraq, at the request of Ed Keeser, 2nd BCT safety officer.
“This is the first response team for CNS, but they have limited capabilities, and they have been taught those limitations,” said Lloyd Callaway, a civilian fire inspector and instructor. “There are things they have to consider if it’s incipient — the ambient temperature and accumulation of smoke — and then they have to decide if they can take evasive action or not.”
“I learned what type of fires we can fight,” Payton said. “I didn’t know there were different classifications of things that would put out a fire. I didn’t know that water isn’t always the solution to kill every fire.”
Throughout the training, the Soldiers serving as members of the CNS fire brigade, practiced reacting to real-world scenarios and received hands-on training extinguishing fires.
“By putting out real fires, we learned how to react to fire, how to use the CAFS, how to use the foam and how it reacts to the fire,” said Spc. Baraa Abbas, a water purification specialist with Company A, 204th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT.
To culminate the training, the instructors issued a pop quiz, arranging wooden pallets in a pyramid shape approximately 8 feet tall, and then set it on fire. Within minutes, the fire announcement came on the loud speaker, alerting the fire brigade, that promptly reacted and extinguished the fire.
“The final scenario encompassed everything they’ve learned to this point,” Callaway said. “It’s not a ‘pass or fail,’ but they do have to meet minimum standards: that they’re safe, that they communicate between each other, that they are operating the equipment correctly and that they extinguish the fire.”
Safety remains the fire brigade Soldiers’ top priority, said Staff Sgt. Lester Canidy, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of a CNS fire brigade team, assigned to 285th Military Police Battalion.
Soldiers must assess the risks associated with any size fire, taking into consideration every danger, to include the possibility of heavy smoke or ordnance, said Canidy.
“It is all about safety first,” he said. “We have some good guys in this class, who are motivated and eager, and they are going to be the 911 call for CNS.”