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AF Fire Emergency Services test fire trucks in extreme cold

Air Force Civil Engineer Center

Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, lead firefighters Marcus Carpenter (left) and Patrick Stevens successfully operate a hand line in sub-zero temperatures during recent tests of discharge systems on their AF FES fire suppression vehicles. AFCEC Fire Emergency Services division headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, spearheaded the tests, proving the discharge systems will perform in extreme cold weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Air Force fire service professionals at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, recently spent a week in the coldest weather the country has experienced this year to test the discharge systems of firefighting agents on Air Force fire trucks.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center conducted the tests in sub-zero weather in January and February to ensure functionality in protecting Airmen in extremely cold climates. AFCEC’s fire emergency services division spearheaded the winterization tests of both the bumper turret and hand line discharge systems using the P-34 Rapid Intervention Vehicle as the platform.

“The weather was perfect for testing to see if our FES trucks could discharge firefighting agents and perform as expected when they are needed to put out a fire in extreme cold temperatures,” said Fred Terryn, Air Force Fire Emergency Services program manager.

“Most people think of ‘winterization’ as prepping a piece of equipment to be stored and not used during the winter months,” Terryn said. “But in this specific case, it technically means just the opposite - we were verifying if the equipment could function at a desired level despite the influence of extreme cold weather.”

The tests confirmed that Air Force firefighters are well-equipped to suppress fire in even the most brutal cold weather, said Dallas Perry, lead equipment specialist, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins AFB, Georgia.

“It was so cold that when a gust of wind came up as one of the guys was discharging a fan of water from a hand line, the water that was blown back onto his jacketed chest was a sheet of ice within a few seconds,” he said.

The team reviewed ARFF system’s specifications. Despite the outside temperature year-round, AF FES vehicles are generally stored inside climate-controlled fire stations until they are needed. For the testing performed by the team, the vehicles were moved outside as the temperatures ranged from zero to minus 7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Each test conducted was based on the vehicle’s capability to satisfactorily store firefighting agents and discharge them in a maximum condition of zero degrees Fahrenheit. Vehicles were tested by running engines at a high idle of about 1300 revolutions per minute.

The tests showed that the low heat of the vehicle’s idling diesel engine during the tests created warm air that helped prevent freezing of the discharge system’s piping and other components.