ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. – Firefighters work in all types of weather and must be ready to respond in a moment’s notice.
Rock Island Arsenal’s firefighters started the day conducting daily maintenance on fire house vehicles and equipment Feb. 11. The paramedic team practiced loading and unloading procedures in the ambulance. Firefighters conducted primary maintenance checks and services on firetrucks and checked hoses and gear for proper functioning. This is all a part of daily procedures, which ensure that the equipment is ready, when the team is called upon.
RIA firefighter Tim Weller is a veteran and former active-duty Air Force firefighter. He said being a firefighter is exciting and he enjoys the job.
“We make the time to train,” said Weller. “We have a high percentage of confirmed fires” off post in which we assist other fire departments.
Brett Vanscoy, RIA assistant chief, has been working at the RIA fire station since 2002. He said the fire department was very busy in February, with multiple fires in the Quad Cities area. RIA itself does not have a high incidence of fires because of the work done by the fire prevention team.
Daryle Wood and Mark Abdon are on the team that inspects installation buildings for potential hazards that could cause a fire. The team also conducts fire prevention training.
“Fire prevention for us is huge because it eliminates a lot of the potential causes before it develops into something that could be detrimental,” said Vanscoy.
“Our No. 1 goal is life safety,” said Wood, the assistant chief of prevention.
The fire department works through several obstacles while on a job besides battling a fire.
The weather can take a toll on firefighters and the equipment they use. Cooler temperatures cause equipment and gauges to break and engines to freeze.
“Cold weather is hard on the equipment and hard on the guys,” said Vanscoy.
At around 8 a.m., on Feb. 11, a call for “mutual aid” came across the radio and the RIA fire department responded immediately, sending a vehicle to a “working” fire located in the attic of a single-family residence on 30th Street in Rock Island.
Mutual aid is an agreement between the RIA Fire Department and the neighboring fire departments that allows for reciprocity of services. The RIA Fire Department has mutual-aid agreements with all of the metropolitan fire departments.
“This mutual aid agreement is hands down the number one agreement we have with the community for mutual support,” said Col. Todd Allison, RIA Garrison commander. “The mutual aid agreement is facilitated through the Illinois Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), an essential arrangement for Rock Island Arsenal due to the complex nature and high risk operations that occur daily on the Installation.”
The RIA fire department arrived on the scene where Rock Island’s fire department was already fighting the blaze. The Rock Island firefighters evacuated eight people and quickly gained access to the fire hydrant system across the street and aggressively attacked the fire.
The two departments worked well together and coordinated support with outside agencies such as the Red Cross and electricians.
“None of us are staffed to handle a single family resident fire. It takes 17 firefighters on scene to properly fight a fire,” said Vanscoy. “None of us have those bodies available. So we all rely on mutual aid.”
“The partnership between the local community and Rock Island Arsenal is a shared vision that benefits everyone,” said Allison.
“When there is an issue on the Arsenal, we rely on mutual aid,” said Wood.
“We go out and help them and they come on and help us,” said Vanscoy. “We all work together as one emergency service unit whether it’s on the island or in the Mississippi River, hazardous materials call, medical emergencies or some kind of technical rescue response.”
Vanscoy describe the emergency services team as being very similar to the Army.
“The emergency services work together as one unit,” said Vanscoy. “The Army has different battalions but one common mission – the individual fire departments have the same common mission and come together to fight the bigger battles.”
“The U.S. Army Garrison along with other major tenants have a history of responding to the local community in a time of crisis whether it is individual incidents such as a fire response or a full blown emergency,” said Allison.
The RIA Fire Department partners with the surrounding community to train together during exercises to contribute to emergency preparedness.