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NEWS | Feb. 13, 2018

Team Charleston firefighters protect personnel, property

By Airman 1st Class Allison Payne Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

The mission statement of Joint Base Charleston Fire Emergency Services is to provide airport, structural, maritime and wild land fire suppression through highly capable rescue crews. Along with fighting fires, firefighters also respond to medical and hazardous material calls and are usually the first on-scene responders.

“Being a firefighter to me means getting everyone home safely,” said Tech. Sgt. Roger Kemp, 628th Civil Engineer Squadron district fire chief. “Being able to save lives and complete the FES mission gives me a huge sense of accomplishment not many people get to experience.”

Firefighters-in-training attend Louis F. Garland Academy in San Angelo, Texas, at Goodfellow Air Force Base. Training is approximately four months and teaches the fundamentals of firefighting, decontamination procedures for hazardous materials, emergency medical treatment and more.

“We work hard, train hard and are always prepared,” said Airman Michael McNeil, 628th CES firefighter. “It’s important for us to stay alert because we never know when the next call is going to come in. We need to be ready at all times.”

The JB Charleston – Weapons Station covers more than 17,000 acres of the 20,000 acres which comprise JB Charleston. Due to the larger size of the JB Charleston – Weapons Station, FES has four fire stations with approximately 18 firefighters on duty every day. Firefighters support all missions stateside and overseas protecting lives and property.

“It definitely takes someone not only physically strong, but also spiritually,” said Kemp. “Our bad days can be pretty terrible, so it’s critical to have a strong mentality to push through those trying times.”

Firefighters here work 48 hour shifts, and remain on standby during their personal down time. Because of overnight shifts, there are bunk rooms in each of the fire stations for firefighters to have a place to sleep until a call comes in.

“We have a great group of people in the department,” said McNeil. “This is important because we spend so much time together given the length of our shifts. On top of being in the fire service, we are also in a brotherhood. We joke around with each other but, at the end of the day, we will always have each other’s backs. I trust these guys with my life.”