What does a military firefighter do?

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What is a Military Firefighter?

Military firefighters are often part of a specialized unit operating within the armed forces, such as the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps. These highly trained specialists undergo rigorous training in both firefighting techniques and military procedures and protocols, enabling them to protect military personnel, equipment, facilities, and assets from the devastating effects of fires and other hazardous incidents. The duties of the military firefighter encompass fire prevention and suppression, rescue operations, hazardous material response, emergency medical services, and incident command.

Military firefighters work in collaboration with other military units and local fire departments to develop emergency response plans and ensure effective coordination during large-scale incidents, both on military installations and in deployed locations worldwide.

What does a Military Firefighter do?

Silhouettes of military firefighters through the smoke.

Duties and Responsibilities
Military firefighters perform a range of critical tasks to fulfill their role within the armed forces. Their primary duties and responsibilities include:

  • Fire Suppression – Military firefighters respond to fires and employ firefighting techniques to extinguish flames, protect life, and minimize property damage. They operate firefighting equipment, such as fire trucks, hoses, and specialized gear, to combat fires effectively.
  • Rescue Operations – In addition to firefighting, military firefighters conduct search and rescue operations during emergencies. They extricate and provide emergency medical care to individuals who may be trapped or injured due to fires or other hazardous incidents.
  • Fire Prevention – Military firefighters are involved in fire prevention efforts to minimize the risk of fires. They conduct inspections, risk assessments, and safety drills to identify potential fire hazards within military installations. They educate personnel on fire safety practices, enforce fire prevention regulations, and ensure compliance with safety standards.
  • Hazardous Material Response – Military firefighters are trained to handle incidents involving hazardous materials, such as chemical spills or leaks. They employ proper containment and decontamination procedures to mitigate risks and protect personnel and the environment.
  • Emergency Medical Services – Military firefighters often possess medical training and provide emergency medical services during fire and rescue operations. They administer first aid, stabilize injured individuals, and coordinate with medical personnel for advanced care and evacuation, if necessary.
  • Incident Command – In emergency situations, military firefighters may take on incident command roles. They establish command structures, coordinate resources, and direct operations to ensure an organized and effective response to incidents.
  • Equipment Maintenance – Military firefighters are responsible for the maintenance and readiness of firefighting equipment. They perform routine inspections, tests, and maintenance tasks to ensure that equipment is operational and in compliance with safety standards.
  • Training and Preparedness – Military firefighters continually undergo training to enhance their firefighting skills, stay updated on the latest techniques and equipment, and maintain readiness. They participate in exercises, drills, and specialized training programs to ensure they are prepared for various emergency scenarios.
  • Deployed Operations – Military firefighters are also deployed to combat zones and other operational areas where they face unique challenges. They provide essential firefighting services to military personnel and assets in austere environments, where fire incidents can have severe consequences. Their presence ensures the availability of firefighting capabilities wherever the military operates.
  • Physical Fitness and Personal Readiness – As their role is a physically demanding one, military firefighters often engage in physical fitness activities to maintain their strength, stamina, and overall health. They may have designated time for workouts, fitness training, or physical readiness activities as part of their daily routine.

These duties may vary depending on the specific branch of the military and the role of the firefighter within that branch. However, the overarching goal remains the same: to protect military personnel, equipment, facilities, and assets from fires and other hazardous incidents.

Types of Military Firefighters
Now that we have a general understanding of the professional life of a military firefighter, let’s look at the different types of military firefighters, each tailored to the specific needs and requirements of their respective branches of the armed forces:

  • Structural Firefighters – These firefighters focus on responding to and extinguishing fires within buildings and structures on military installations. They are trained in various firefighting techniques, including ventilation, forcible entry, and search and rescue operations in structural firefighting scenarios.
  • High-Rise Firefighting Specialists – These specialists are trained to respond to fires and emergencies in tall buildings or structures. They receive specialized training in high-rise firefighting techniques, including stairwell operations and elevator rescues.
  • Aircraft Rescue Firefighters (ARFF) – ARFF firefighters specialize in responding to aircraft emergencies, such as aircraft fires, crash incidents, and fuel spills. They receive specialized training in aircraft firefighting tactics, airport operations, and aircraft rescue techniques. ARFF firefighters work closely with airfield personnel to ensure the safety of military aviation operations.
  • Shipboard Firefighters – Shipboard firefighters are responsible for firefighting and emergency response on naval vessels. They receive specialized training in shipboard firefighting, including ship compartmentalization, water supply systems, and firefighting techniques specific to the unique environment of a ship at sea.
  • Crash Fire Rescue (CFR) Specialists – CFR specialists are trained to respond to emergencies involving military vehicles, such as armored vehicles, tanks, or military transport vehicles. They possess knowledge and skills to combat vehicle fires, extricate trapped personnel, and provide emergency medical care in challenging operational environments.
  • Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) Specialists – These specialists focus on managing incidents involving hazardous materials, including chemical spills, leaks, and environmental hazards. They are experts in hazardous material identification, containment, and decontamination procedures to minimize risks to personnel and the environment.
  • Wildland Firefighter – Some military firefighters may receive specialized training in wildland firefighting techniques. These firefighters are trained to combat wildfires in rural or remote areas, employing strategies such as controlled burns, fire line construction, and the use of specialized wildland firefighting equipment.

Different branches of the military may have their own variations of these specialized military firefighting roles or additional specializations based on their unique operational needs.

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What is the workplace of a Military Firefighter like?

Military firefighters are employed by various branches of the armed forces, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Within each branch, they may be assigned to specific commands, bases, airfields, naval vessels, or combat zones where their services are needed. They work under the direction and organization of their respective branch's fire protection services or equivalent units.

Military firefighters work closely with other military units, such as security forces, engineers, and medical personnel. In cases where military installations are in proximity to civilian communities, they will work in collaboration with local fire departments and emergency services to ensure effective coordination and mutual support in responding to emergencies that may impact both military and civilian areas.

Here is an overview of possible workplaces for the military firefighter:

  • Military Installations – Military firefighters are primarily stationed at military installations, which can include bases, camps, airfields, naval stations, or training facilities. These installations can be spread across various locations, both domestically and internationally. Military firefighters work in fire stations or firehouses located within the military installation, which serve as their home base.
  • Aircraft Hangars and Flight Lines – In aviation-focused military installations, such as airbases or aircraft carriers, military firefighters may spend a significant portion of their time working on or near aircraft hangars and flight lines. This is particularly relevant for those certified in aircraft rescue firefighting (ARFF) who provide fire protection services for military aircraft.
  • Naval Vessels – Military firefighters assigned to naval units may spend their time aboard naval vessels, such as aircraft carriers, destroyers, or amphibious assault ships. They are responsible for providing fire protection and emergency response capabilities while at sea.
  • Combat Zones – During deployments or in active conflict areas, military firefighters may be deployed to combat zones. They work in demanding and potentially hazardous environments, providing firefighting and emergency response support to military operations.
  • Training Facilities – Military firefighters often train at specialized training facilities designed to simulate various firefighting scenarios. These facilities may include mock structures, aircraft training props, hazardous material containment areas, or wildland firefighting training grounds.

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Military Firefighters are also known as:
Military Fire and Emergency Services Specialist Combat Firefighter