FORT CAMPBELL, Ky – Battling structural fires is second nature for Lt. Taylor Hennerfeind, Clarksville Fire Rescue, and he’s equally prepared for aircraft-related calls after completing the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress Airport Firefighter course hosted Sept. 20-24 at Fort Campbell.
Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services partnered with the Tennessee State Fire Commission to help approximately 14 firefighters earn their Airport Firefighter certification through the 40-hour program, which included classroom instruction and hands-on training.
“We’re connecting these different fire departments to Fort Campbell and giving them the knowledge to keep them safe from an airport fire,” said Donny Plaster, assistant chief of training, Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services. “When you look at the regional airports that are all over the state, if firefighters have to respond it’s important for them to know how to do it safely and mitigate the incident.”
The Clarksville Regional Airport is among the closest civilian airfields to the installation, and Hennerfeind brought the staff from Fire Station 7, which neighbors the airport, to keep CFR well-prepared for any emergencies.
“It’s a great class, and the guys at Fort Campbell always provide good training,” he said. “They have the resources to do these specialized firefighting scenarios that we don’t normally deal with ... fuel fires, hazardous material, exploding freights or wheels and engine fires. It’s almost like the difference between a structural firefighter and a wildland firefighter, because it’s like a whole other division.”
Fire Station 7 has a mutual aid partnership with Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services to respond to incidents at the Clarksville Regional Airport and Campbell Army Airfield, which means their training directly benefits both the installation and the surrounding community.
“As Clarksville grows, the airport is as well, and we’re seeing more and more traffic come in,” Hennerfeind said. “We can have anything from single-engine training aircraft to corporate jets and cargo aircraft, because it’s a 6,000-foot runway and a backup for Campbell Army Airfield in the event of an emergency.”
Other cities in the region are seeing similar growth rates, and Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services has helped prepare them for airport fires since the agency began hosting the annual training three years ago. This year’s participants included personnel from the Portland Fire Department and Nashville Fire Department.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to come out, learn some material and do some hands-on stuff to better understand dealing with aircraft fires,” said Capt. Jeremy Conner, Portland Fire Department. “We’ll be able to take those skills back to help the citizens of Portland and the people who use the airport there, and the training is a great opportunity to work together and build camaraderie and relationships with other departments.”
Firefighter Milicia Cook, Nashville Fire Department, said she frequently travels to fire training events to connect with other agencies and that her time at Fort Campbell was particularly valuable. She plans to encourage other Nashville Fire Department employees to sign up for next year’s Airport Firefighter course based on her experience.
“It’s been really enlightening,” she said. “I can see a big difference between structural firefighting and airport firefighting, and a couple of our stations are located near Nashville International Airport so I can tell other firefighters the things I’ve learned here in case we need to respond to an emergency involving aircraft.”
As fire departments from across Tennessee continue engaging with Fort Campbell Fire and Emergency Services’ training programs, Plaster hopes to see a statewide impact on fire readiness.
“You can see how we’re reaching out, and through the Tennessee State Fire Commission we’re not only serving the local community, we’re reaching out as far as Nashville,” Plaster said. “The turnout for these classes has been great. The firefighters are asking the right questions. They’re being assertive and they’re very invested in the training.”