Into the fire

Hull tech student fights fire

A Hull Tech QL5 student uses a high yield fire hose to suppress the roaring flames of a simulated Sea King helicopter crash.

A group of Hull Technician Qualification Level 3 (QL3) students spent Oct. 9 beating back a roaring tower of flames as part of their Helicopter Crash Rescue Fire Fighting (HCRFF) training.

Clad head to toe in fire fighting gear and spraying torrents of water from hoses, students battled a simulated Sea King Helicopter crash.

“It gives students an opportunity to fight a helicopter fire with the equipment they would be using on board an HMC ship’s flight deck,” says Sgt Jeremy Buckingham, Senior Firefighter at Canadian Forces Fleet School Esquimalt (CFFSE). “In the event of a helicopter disaster on board ship they’ll have a frame of reference for the type of things they’ll be dealing with, which is invaluable when it comes to saving lives.”

The boxy metal simulator contains various liquid and gas propane ejectors that pump the required fuel for the helicopter fire fighting evolution. Portions of the simulator can be ignited at varying degrees of intensity with only the touch of a button, with even at lowest levels projecting a wall of heat over 30 feet in every direction.

“We’re keeping the fires low today so the students can get near it somewhat comfortably,” says Sgt Buckingham. “At the higher levels, the radiant heat can melt the paint off cars if we’re not careful. It can get quite intense.”

Students suppress the flames initially using Twin Agent Units: Aqueous Film Forming Foam and Potassium bi-carbonate (Dry Chemical).
“These are the tools they’ll be using on the ship,” says Sgt Buckingham. “When it comes to fighting helicopter fires it’s vital to have an in-depth understanding of your equipment and how to used it.”

This year’s QL3 course is the first of a new variation in the program. Usually HCRFF is taught to QL5 students, but Sgt Buckingham says as the Hull Tech trade moves towards a more involved fire fighting role on board ships this is the reason why students are being educated on the more advance fire fighting skills earlier in their career.

“Starting next year, some firefighting positions will be moved off the frigates and the Hull Techs trade will be filling them,” he says. “This way they’ll have the base of knowledge to improve on, and perfect over a much longer period of time than before.”

Hull Techs from across the Formation have been undergoing training with the QL3 course since March, preparing for positions aboard the navy’s various vessels.

LS Andrew See recently made the jump to Hull Tech from Naval Communications, and says the variety of the QL3 course is its strength.

“Just the sheer amount of subjects we’ve been trained on has been incredible,” he says. “We spent a few weeks on everything, so if there’s a skill you particularly like it’s easy to pursue it after training.”

With a position aboard HMCS Winnipeg on the horizon, LS See says the variety of skills learned have been priceless.

“From the plumbing to wood work, I’ll be using these skills for the rest of my career,” he says. “Even things like the two weeks we spent on math will be helpful, not just at work but in my civilian life as well. It’s been a great experience.”

-Shawn O’Hara, Staff Writer

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