FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
The safety and security of humankind is something that public servants have sworn to protect when they put on the uniform. Whether local police members or military first responders, all of them answer to a higher calling when lives are placed on the line.
Such callings happen on a fairly regular basis here in the Inland Northwest. No matter where the call to action originates from, together, the 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and local firefighters band together to settle the blaze.
Both departments are able to work together thanks to a mutual aid agreement that dates back decades ago. The agreement, which dates back to 1994 for the current model, in a nutshell says Fairchild firefighters will help the fire departments in the Inland Northwest when asked and in turn they will reciprocate if the fire department on base needs help.
“Our minimum manning can be as low as eight Airmen,” said Kimo Kuheana, 92nd CES fire chief. “If we respond to an in-flight emergency, that leaves our base less protected from fires. This agreement allow us to lean on our Airway Heights partners to supplement our capabilities and protect our Airmen and families when we can’t, due to mission requirements.”
Recently, the fire station at Fairchild responded to a structure fire in Airway Heights. Six Airmen from Fairchild responded in less than eight minutes: the fire chief, a safety officer and four fire-fighting Airmen along with the District 10 fire department, who service the West Plains of Spokane County.
“We get calls like this two to three times a month,” said Kuheana. He added that some months they may not get any calls, but other months could have up to eight different calls. “It’s like a relationship; you get what you put into it, nothing more, nothing less and we put a lot into our community, our relationship is really strong.”
That relationship between the departments are strengthened every time they train together.
“Fairchild Air Force Base and the city of Airway Heights are one community,” said Mitch Metzger, Airway Heights Fire Department fire chief. “All of Fairchild’s citizens are our citizens too; it is essential to protect our community at large and that we work together.”
Metzger, who has been fighting fires for 36 years, has been the fire chief for the Airway Heights FD for about six and a half years. He said the training they do with the Fairchild firefighters makes being an incident commander much more manageable.
“To know that we have trained and staffed crew coming to help us is invaluable for our community,” said Metzger. “Without Fairchild coming to help, we would often times not have enough firefighters to perform our duties safely. It’s an honor to serve the citizens of Fairchild and the United States Air Force.”
The structure fire is just one example of the teamwork and dedication. Together, they were able to extinguish the fire in less than three hours.
“Our guys are top-notch,” said Kuheana. “My goal is for our Airmen to become future leaders of the Air Force and ensure they are ready for every situation. Being able to work with our local partners helps show them many different scenarios, making them better firefighters, better trainers and great leaders.”
“Whatever it takes,” a common mantra of firefighters. Telling the world, “We will do whatever it takes to take care of our community, our citizens and our families.” The teamwork and commitment these firefighters around the Inland Northwest display is a testament to what all communities should strive for.