Firefighters Protect Del Rio from Wildland Fire

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt JT May III
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Firefighter’s mission objectives can be broken down into two massive aspects, saving lives and protecting property. On any given day, they never know who, what or when they have to respond. It’s safe to say these brave men and women live in the constant state of readiness and service before self.

Some cannot fathom the intestinal fortitude it takes to instinctively run into a burning building and place a life above their own. That selfless code is something firefighters from the 47th Civil Engineer Squadron have a long-standing tradition of, and 2020 was no different.

On Aug 27, the 47th CES Fire Department received a call from Val Verde County Emergency to assist nine local agencies battling a raging wild-land fire in Del Rio, Texas. To make matters worse, flames were rapidly approaching Rubin Chavira Elementary school and on a one-way path toward destruction.

Del Rio and Val Verde counties mutual aid and support agreement with Laughlin allows joint responses and recovery actions during emergencies.

“I was nervous fighting my first fire, because it was different, it wasn’t like going into a building and fighting fire,” said Airman First Class Kayla Underwood, 47th CES fire protection specialist.

Within minutes two Fire trucks (Crash 7 and Crash 15), Command Vehicle (Chief 1) and six firefighters from Laughlin Air Force Base were eagerly on scene to assist local firefighters. As they exited the vehicles, each person knew their role and what was expected of them. Protect the school at all costs, which is exactly what they did.

That protection came in the form of creating a firebreak. A firebreak is a piece of land, foliage or vegetation that is continually doused with water or flame retardant to contain the spread of fire.

As Crash 7 and 15 continued to spray the firebreak at the rear of the school, they were met by Tanker 13 and Crash 8, two additional fire trucks and three fighters form Spofford Auxiliary Airfield located more than 35 minutes away. They were responsible for resupplying trucks with water so firefighters could advance deeper in the brush. This process saved invaluable time extinguishing the fire, but most importantly, no personnel injured or property destroyed.

Air Force firefighters are not normally certified in this type of fire because their training is centered-on aircraft, buildings and homes. Laughlin firefighters demonstrated uncanny proficiency and received real- world experience in wildland/urban interface firefighting.

Staff Sgt. Ian Robinson, 47th CES fire protection craftsman, equates joint training as the X-factor, which allowed everyone to seamlessly integrate. Throughout the year 47th CES, Val Verde, Del Rio and other fire departments conduct training as one team on and off base. All parties get the chance to increase their interoperability and cross-utilize skill-sets.

 “The city of Del Rio means a lot to me, so whenever they need help on or off duty, it brings great pleasure to serve,” said Mr. Raul S. Castorena, 47th CES assistant chief of health and safety.  “It is important that everyone get involved with their community, for the future of our community, together we can all make a great impact wherever we live.”