ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE — Imagine a building collapsing. The walls and the ceiling, once sturdy and strong are now rubble on the ground. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s heavy. The air is thin inside and dust is more visible than the old walls of the building. That’s when it happens. A light surges through the darkened haze and firefighters rush inside. They save a life, because they were prepared for the collapse of the building.
At Altus Air Force Base, firefighters trained for that scenario.
“Today we’re training for a structural collapse,” said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Packard, 97th Civil Engineers Squadron fire department shift assistant chief. “We no longer have Rescue II down at the fire academy which would include heavy operations and structural collapse. So this is some really good training for us.”
Packard went on to express the importance of this training and why they’re doing it.
“This is important for us to do in case there is some sort of weapon of mass destruction or bomb explosion at a place that might cause the building to collapse,” Packard said. “This allows us to get to that person who’s underneath all of that and get them to safety.”
The firefighters on base try to prepare for every scenario and the City of Altus Fire Department is ready to help out.
“We have them as backup and they have us if they ever need us,” said Drew George, City of Altus firefighter. “We have the potential to respond to a big scale emergency with Altus Air Force Base. The base firefighters don’t come off base unless we ask them to but it’s nice to know that they’re here.”
Most people know Oklahoma has tornadoes, but there’s something else that can cause structural collapse as well.
“We’re having more and more earthquakes in Oklahoma,” George said. “The chance is getting bigger for something like that to happen.”
This training is also a great opportunity for civilians and military to work together as a team.
“It’s a great cross training exercise because whenever you respond to something like a building collapse. Neither Altus Air Force Base or Altus Fire Department are really set up as a single unit to respond to a large-scale building collapse,” George said. “You need lots of manpower and that way you bring in lots of different fire departments to help set up on a large scale building collapse or a large scale trench rescue.”
The joint training occurred at the base burn pit.
“You all really have a great facility out here,” George said. “You don’t find a setup like this anywhere, there might be two or three setups around the state that will stand up to this one. It’s nice for them to let us and other different groups come out here and train. They keep it nice and clean and ready to go all the time and we thank you a ton for letting us come out here and train.”