Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Cole C. Pielop

BREMERTON, Washington – Scorching hot flames roared up the wall and crawled onto the ceiling, bringing the room to an almost unbearable temperature.

USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) at-sea firefighting party members stood calm and collected, at the ready to combat the fire, as if it was just another day at the office.

Since returning from deployment August 15th, John C. Stennis Sailors have been receiving damage control training at Bremerton Fire Training Facility. Being prepared to respond to a fire at sea is a basic skill every Sailor must gain.

“The reason we have this program is to teach all personnel on board naval ships basic fire fighting skills,” said Michael Tinder, from Phoenix, a course instructor at the school and retired senior chief damage controlman. “What’s great about this training here is that Sailors are able to come here and flow water and have a fire right there. Giving them the ability to see water come out of the nozzle and have a real fire in front of them will help them react when the time comes.”

The day started off with classroom lectures, then Sailors moved outside and dressed out into firefighting gear.

“Communications, teamwork, hose handling and proper fire tactics are just some of the things they are going to learn here,” said Tinder. “We talk about the chemistry of fire and how [self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)] work, and everything else we know that will set them up for success before we put them into the burn tower and perform everything we’ve taught them to do.”

The burn tower houses replicas of shipboard spaces, such as a berthing, a galley and an engine room. Students get hands-on experience fighting real fires in a controlled environment.

The motivation was high amongst the Sailors, with high hives and smiles between evolutions making the training all the more effective.

“I’ve done a lot of training in my three years on board, but this is by far the best training I’ve been to,” said Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Forrest Ebell, from St. George, Utah. “The instructors were very knowledgeable and the fires were very realistic, I couldn’t have asked for a better event.”

Sailors were able to practice all of the positions available on the firefighting team and become more comfortable in roles that they are not accustomed to.

“Being able to train with a live fire made it just that more real,” said Damage Controlman Fireman Jacob Shepherd, from Cincinnati. “We were able to change positions on the hose team so that if one of our members fell, we would be able to step in with no hesitation. Being able to go into a casualty and perform at any position is a good feeling.”

With freshly sharpened skills and refreshed tactics, the training was a success for the entire squad. If a casualty were to ever happen aboard John C. Stennis, the Sailors of the at-sea firefighting party are well rounded and ready for action.

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