Altus fire training facility benefits entire state

  • Published
  • By Kevin Chandler
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Outstanding cooperation and mutual respect typify the relationship between local residents and base personnel. Joint projects between the Air Force and local community have historically proved very successful. This is why Air Force and local firefighters are now training together.

According to Tech. Sgt. Jason Higgins, assistant chief of training, 150 firefighters from Lawton city, Lawton airport and Fort Sill fire departments have been trained in base live aircraft fire exercises so far. Firefighters from Tinker and Sheppard Air Force Bases have also participated. Additionally, Oklahoma State University recently began utilizing the training as part of their fire service training program.

The live aircraft and structural fire training conducted on Altus Air Force Base unites base firefighters with their counterparts in the local community. The aircraft trainer, put in place in 1997, allows firefighters to realistically train on a simulated plane crash site.

The structural trainer was added to the base in 2004 to provide simulated building fire training. It features first and second floor burn rooms, a hidden wall fire simulator, a hazardous materials area and a draft pit for vehicle testing and operator certification.

Fire Chief Eric Babcock was the original proponent for building the facilities. Once the project was approved Sergeant Higgins monitored construction and coordinated with various agencies to ensure the project's completion and accreditation.

"It helps us hone our skills and get familiar with local departments," Sergeant Higgins said, "they learn from us and we learn from them."

While promoting a good rapport between departments, the training also saves state taxpayers money. Sergeant Higgins stated the 63 municipal and volunteer departments throughout southwest Oklahoma save approximately $800,000 per year in travel costs and other expenses by using base facilities.

Further, Sergeant Higgins points out the training makes community firefighters better. That is good news for those who depend on them in times of crisis.

"Because the fire departments have voluntarily chosen to seek this higher standard," he said, "the community can expect and receive a consistently better level of service."