Building fire provides ‘win-win-win’ for Fort Campbell firefighters, Fort Knox, 19th Engineers
By Eric PilgrimSeptember 10, 2020
FORT KNOX, Ky. — It started as a request from Fort Knox Range Control officials to demolish an old dilapidated wooden structure that had been standing for decades at one of the ranges.It turned into a Sept. 9 training opportunity for eight members of 550th Engineer Detachment (Fire Fighters) from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.“A couple of months ago, Range Control asked us to demo this building and build a new building on top of this location,” said Capt. Samuel Briscoe, construction officer at 19th Engineer Battalion, the parent battalion for 550th. “When we briefed our plan to Col. [Brad] Morgan — it was his last week or so — he made an offhanded comment, ‘Why don’t we just burn the building instead of demo’ing it?’ We ran with that, and here we are.”The plan included some much needed mission-critical training for the 550th Soldiers, who are expected to deploy to Bulgaria sometime next year.Staff Sgt. Robert Preston, noncommissioned officer in charge of 550th, said the opportunity surfaced at the right time.“This is a great practice burn that is setting us up for our evaluations next month,” said Preston. “A lot of my Soldiers haven’t actually had a Class A burn. We normally do them with propane and in a really controlled environment.“Here, the fire’s going to react a lot differently and actually be a live fire for us.”Preston explained the training opportunity checks the block for six to eight of the mission essential tasks needed for them to prepare for deployment, including hose management and advancements, extinguishment of a fire, identifying the fire and making entry.“It’s helping us out a lot,” said Preston. “I also have a Soldier who is shadowing the engineers to train on pump operations, and all the water and hydration equations he needs to know when he becomes the engineer on scene.”Firefighters from Meade County and Flaherty fire departments assisted Fort Knox Fire Department firefighters in supporting the 550th firefighters during the burn. Various rooms were ignited with hay, pallets and shredded paper before each team entered and extinguished it.After the firefighters received enough training to meet their task list requirements, Fort Knox firefighters ignited the inside of the building at the back to let the entire facility catch fire. The engulfed building provided 550th Soldiers with a few last lessons — observing how a raging fire reacts in an environment, how to ensure it doesn’t spread to the surrounding areas, and how water affects it.“My Soldiers were extremely apprehensive leading up to this because they’ve never done anything like this,” said Preston. “They’ve loved this opportunity; I’ve had nothing but good reviews from every one of them.“The Fort Knox Fire Department has been exceptionally accommodating.”Fire eventually consumed the entire building as 550th Soldiers watered down nearby facilities. Members of 19th Engineer Battalion will return to the spot later in the year to construct the new building.________________________________________________________EDITOR’S NOTE: For more photos, visit the album at the official Fort Knox Flickr site HERE.