Thick, white smoke was rising from Davison Army Airfield last week as Fort Belvoir Fire and Emergency Services trucks came rolling up. With focus and precision, each firefighter had a job to do: lay out hoses; throw ladders for reaching the second floor, and forcing their way into the building.
This building, however, is designed to burn – again and again. The three-story steel structure offers real-world training, complete with heat, blinding smoke, and the uncertainty of the floorplan, according to Shane Crutcher, Fort Belvoir fire chief.
“The training facility was dedicated back in July, and this is the first opportunity as an agency to run the groups through different evolutions. We’ve done some training burns with our instructor groups, but this is the first time that we’ve set up like we would on an actual response and perform to the standard with which we have to make sure we meet,” said Crutcher.
The first live fire training was observed by Col. Josh SeGraves, Garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Kleinholtz. SeGraves stressed how all this fits into the Army’s People First strategy, with a foundation of trust.
“It’s high-stress when you enter a burning building, and you can’t see anything, so you have to trust that everyone is doing their job to the best of their ability. You’ve got to trust each other.
“If you see something wrong, or something’s not quite right – if you walk by that, you’re going to set a new standard. That’s part of ‘This is my Squad’. That culture is not okay; fix that deficiency and hold each other accountable. Support each other and build a team,” said SeGraves.
The training involved several scenarios: a first-floor fire, and responding to a second-story fire with victims trapped. A key advantage to this facility is the much needed flexibility it provides, Fire and Emergency Services.
“Our partners in Fairfax County have a training facility on the other side of the county. This facility will enable Fort Belvoir to support their training which will better facilitate cooperation between the two agencies which is critical,” said Crutcher
“When you look at the National Capitol Region, our military partners and even FEMA partners have taken a look at the Fort Belvoir facility and they plan to take advantage of it.
From Aberdeen Proving Grounds to down A.P. Hill, Fire and Emergency Services will be using our facility to meet their own training requirements.
The 2,280-square-foot training center is a world-class facility, and Crutcher said future plans include the addition of a mobile aircraft rescue and firefighting system, and above-ground confined-space rescue simulator.
This article originally ran in the Belvoir Eagle on October 21, 2020.