By Kristian DePue, Staff Writer, Space Base Delta 1 Public Affairs
PETERSON SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. — In the morning hours of Tuesday, July 19, 2022, personnel from the Peterson Space Force Base Fire Department met with the Colorado Springs Fire Dept. for an emergency training exercise executed at the Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control Tower at Peterson SFB, Colorado.
“The purpose of this training is to validate Peterson Fire and emergency services’ capability to respond to and mitigate emergencies at the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower, specifically situations which involve the evacuation of personnel from the tower cab,” said Christopher Waldrip, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief. “Peterson does not have a ladder truck assigned. However, we have a mutual aid agreement with the Colorado Springs Fire Department to provide emergency response assistance. They are the closest department with an apparatus capable of reaching the ATC tower.”
That aid agreement truly is mutual; the Peterson SFB Fire Dept. serves and protects not only Peterson SFB, but also the city of Colorado Springs.
“Both agencies respond to emergencies at the Colorado Springs Airport, where we integrate seamlessly,” said Waldrip. “Additionally, Peterson Fire has responded to emergencies on Powers Blvd. and areas surrounding Peterson [Space Force Base].”
The training simulated a fire emergency in the air traffic control tower, which is tightly controlled due to the work performed there, requiring increased coordination. CSFD’s role was to access the balcony on the sixth floor with Truck 8. Truck 8 is one of six similar ladder trucks within Colorado Springs, and is the closest to Peterson SFB — housed at Station 8, located at S. Academy Boulevard and Airport Road.
“If there was a fire in the stairwell or elevator, and personnel working in the tower could not get down, Peterson Fire would utilize our ladder truck to help facilitate rescues,” said CSFD’s Lt. Todd Gripentrog. “The ladder can reach 109 feet up, depending on how close the truck can position itself.”
Joint emergency trainings work to ensure interoperability in response efforts, and the drill on July 19 reinforced the relationship between CSFD and Peterson Fire as well as their ability to operate in conjunction.
“The exercise was a multi-point check-in on our emergency response capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chace Smith, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron crew chief. “Doing the drill not only allowed us to see where we are as a fire department, but provided a clear view of where we’re going. Training exercises enhance our skills and knowledge so we can better serve Peterson [Space Force Base] and Colorado Springs.”
Smith added that his biggest take-aways from the training were a reminder of how crucial equipment setup and utilization is to the success of the mission, as well as the importance of both physical and mental fortitude.
“We accomplished our training goals,” added Gripentrog. “We’ll take what we learned and pass it along, so that whichever crew may end up responding will be aware of all the intricacies involved. We plan to continue joint trainings in the future.”