Niagara Firefighters practice valuable skills

Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services prepare to enter a drain pipe during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services prepare to enter a drain pipe during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services inspect a water sample during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services inspect a water sample during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services check the vitals of personnel before they don protective suits during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services check the vitals of personnel before they don protective suits during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

A sign alerts vehicle traffic during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

A sign alerts vehicle traffic during a hazardous material and confined space exercise at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Sept. 3, 2015. The exercise showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base’s fire department. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke)

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- Members of the 914th Mission Support Group Fire Emergency Services conducted a hazardous material and confined space exercise, here on Sep. 3, 2015.

The exercise, which took place on Ent Ave. across from the base fitness center, showcased the capabilities and preparedness of the base's fire department. This high visibility event may have seemed unusual to untrained observers because of the precautions associated with these types of responses.

"Compared to responding to a house fire this is going to look much slower," said Joe Foucha, 914 MSG, Assistant Fire Chief and Wing Inspection Team evaluator for the exercise. "Hazmat responses are deliberately slowed down, which is required by law, to evaluate the situation and to protect the first responders."

Crews simulated a response to a confined space near the base track and prepared to rescue a victim located more than 25 meters away. Along with the intense stress that accompanied the exercise, temperatures near 80 degrees and humidity over 95% created a very challenging environment for the team.

"We knew that the conditions would present problems," said Jason Thompson, 914 MSG, Hazmat Officer for the exercise. "I was getting exhausted just running around so we kept work times short for the guys in the Hazmat suits."

However, as often the case, the 914th Fire Emergency Services demonstrated high morale and executed their mission with precision. 

"For this type of incident everything went relatively quickly," said Thompson. "The guys were outstanding. The crews are what made this work. The way they followed direction, did their jobs, knew what to do, what equipment to use and how to set everything up--I couldn't have asked for a better crew today."

Throughout the coming weeks, the 914th Airlift Wing will prepare for a Unit Effectiveness Inspection in October focusing on the readiness of the wing as a whole. Its goal is to ensure the 914 AW is functioning efficiently by addressing deficiencies or weaknesses and implementing corrective action.  As it always is, the Fire Department will be ready for any challenge.

"With any exercise, success is usually determined by attitude and effort--and our guys were great," said Foucha. "When October rolls around and the base is involved in the UEI our unit is going to be very successful."