Fire truck mechanics stop, drop and keep them rolling

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Melanie Bulow-Gonterman
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Just like aircraft, fire trucks have a team of maintainers working around the clock to ensure they are ready for emergency responders to use at a moment's notice.

The 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, has a fleet of 10 mission essential firefighting vehicles that are maintained by Terry Koons and three Airmen specialized in fire truck maintenance.

Their expertise in gasoline and diesel engines, electrical systems, drivetrain components; steering, brakes, suspension, hydraulic and air systems allows them to assess an issue and fix it in a timely manner. 

"I love how diverse our job can be on a day to day basis," said Senior Airman William Concepcion, 6th LRS fire truck mechanic. "Personally, I don't like getting into too much of a routine; with this job, I can be doing something as easy as oil changes or something complex, like electrical schematics and water pump assemblies."

There are two types of fire trucks that they maintain: structural fire trucks and aircraft rescue firefighting trucks.

The structural fire trucks respond to community emergencies such as a fire in base housing or an accident. The ARFF trucks respond to aircraft emergencies such as an aircraft crash or an in-flight emergency that requires an aircraft to land immediately.   

"When one of our vehicles is not in service, no matter the time or day, we have to get them back in service as fast as possible," stated Concepcion. "We take pride in doing it with punctuality and doing it right the first time."

Aircraft rescue firefighting vehicles provide the water percentage needed based on the complexity of the type of aircraft that the base is capable of supporting.

"The bigger the plane, the more water is needed. If the percentage of available water decreases, it affects air traffic by re-directing planes that are airborne," said Staff Sgt. Christopher McShan, 6th LRS fire truck and refueling mechanic. "It determines whether a commercial or military aircraft can consider the base as a potential emergency landing area." 

If an aircraft rescue fire fighting vehicle is unserviceable, the flying mission is directly affected. It limits the size of an aircraft that can take off or land at MacDill AFB.

To put it into perspective, if a KC-135 Stratotanker requires 4,000 gallons of water to suppress the fire, but only 3,000 gallons are available, then any aircraft that matches the complexity of the KC-135 would not be allowed to land or take off, therefore hindering mission operations.

The fire truck maintainers play an essential role in guaranteeing base and flight operations continue without interruption.

"Mr. Koons and all the assigned Airmen are awesome!" stated Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Riehle, 6th Civil Engineer Squadron fire emergency services chief. "When a fire truck goes down, they work around the clock to resolve the issue and bring us back to 100 percent capability as soon as possible. It's very rare that our vehicles are out-of-service other than for scheduled maintenance; however, when something unforeseen occurs, they are all over it."