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256th Firefighters Hone Aircraft Fire Skills 
Members of the 256th Engineer Detachment (Firefighter) extinguish a fuselage fire while working on aircraft firefighting and rescue skills at the Connecticut Fire Academy. (Photo Sgt. 1st Class Steve Markowski)
Sgt. 1st Class Steve Markowski, 143rd Regional Support Group 

WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn.—The 256th Engineer Detachment (Firefighter) spent much of its May drill at a familiar location—the Connecticut Fire Academy—working on aircraft rescue firefighting and rescue skills.

Civilian and military fire departments from the region train at the state facility, which is quite familiar to firefighters from the 256th Eng. Det. The East Lyme-based Guard unit is part of the 192nd Engineer Battalion and the 143rd Regional Support Group.

The fire academy, located next to Bradley International Airport, offers a wide variety of training options. On Sunday, May 18, the 256th utilized the academy’s aircraft prop, which is a simulated airplane fuselage with a doorway through which the firefighters can practice rescuing passengers using ladders and stretchers. The training prop emits fire that is controlled by an instructor, allowing a variety of training scenarios under realistic conditions.

It’s not just the variety of training available at the site that draw interest, it’s the fact that firefighters can work on dangerous tasks in a controlled environment.

“We can handle a multitude of fire scenarios under very safe conditions for the firefighters,” said Anthony Dignoti, an adjunct instructor at the academy. Dignoti, who is also Wethersfield’s full-time fire marshal, said the fact that firefighters are able to use their own equipment against actual fire provides realistic conditions.

“The water flowing through the hoses puts a lot of demand on the firefighters,” Dignoti said. “They were probably using between 100 and 150 gallons per minute. A gallon of water weighs about eight pounds, so there’s a lot of force behind that. The velocity of the water and the friction involved make it pretty strenuous to keep advancing the hose lines.”

While the techniques of advancing hose lines as a team are pretty standard for attacking most fires, members of the 256th said the aircraft prop at the Connecticut Fire Academy allows them to train for scenarios that are not standard for training for firefighters.

“Any time you get to fight live fire around an aircraft, it’s a good experience,” Spc. Moe Remillard said. “There are hazards when fighting around an aircraft that are not present around ground vehicles. Also, firefighters don’t often get to practice on aircraft, unless they work at an airport.”

Through multiple iterations, Remillard and his fellow unit members practiced fighting simulated fuselage and engine fires, as well as aircraft rescues.

“An aircraft fire can occur just about anywhere,” Dignoti said, adding that firefighters do not have to be stationed at an airport to be called on to fight an aircraft fire or to rescue passengers. “An aircraft can have problems in the air must find a landing area far from an airport. Firefighters must be ready to respond.”

Members of the 256th used the turret nozzle on one of their fire engines to knock down the fuselage fire, to make it safer for ground teams to advance their hose lines toward the blaze. “That’s typically how they’d fight this type of fire,” Dignoti said. Through some iterations, a rescue team entered the fuselage while colleagues kept the hose trained on a wing or engine fire.

The 256th engineers have been training at the facility since the unit was stood up more than 10 years ago.

“We long ago developed a partnership with the Connecticut Fire Academy for training,” said Staff Sgt. Ron Avery, station chief for the 256th. “(The academy’s instructors) have been absolutely wonderful to us over the years. They not only facilitate prop training, but also technical rescue training. They’ve formed a strong partnership with the Connecticut National Guard.”