USS America (LHA 6), the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship, successfully completed an integrated firefighting drill with base firefighters onboard U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, April 27.
Working alongside Commander, Naval Region Japan (CNRJ) Fire & Emergency Services (F&ES), and Joint Regional Maintenance Center Detachment Sasebo’s Ship Repair Facility (SRF), America’s damage control organization devised and executed a complex drill involving a simulated fire spreading from a workshop into the ship’s hangar bay.
“This was a giant effort on the part of America’s crew, SRF, and CFAS Fire Department.” said Capt. Shockey Snyder, America’s commanding officer. “We have to be prepared to work alongside our civilian counterparts in the event of a major fire, and I’m proud of the team’s hard work integrating with the base firefighters to demonstrate our casualty response capability together.”
The drill, required by the Industrial Ship Safety Manual for Fire Prevention, also known as the 8010 Manual, was created to train integrated teams of Sailors and base firefighters to fight casualties in industrial environments.
“This was a bigger drill than our In-port Emergency Team typically runs,” said Cmdr. Heru Mansell, America’s damage control assistant. “It was designed to get to the point where we had to declare it a major fire, evacuate the entire crew and the civilian contractors working on board, and request assistance from the base firefighters.”
Within seconds of receiving a report of simulated smoke, the ship notified SRF and F&ES, prompting fire engines and ambulances to converge on America’s berth while Sailors conducted initial firefighting efforts and SRF evacuated civilian contractors. When the fire grew out of control, the ship requested the base’s help, while evacuating the entire crew. Once integrated, four-person teams of Navy and civilian firefighters reentered the ship to relieve attack teams already engaging the fire.
On the pier, leadership from America, F&ES and SRF set up an Incident Command Post, or ICP, to monitor firefighters on the ship and at various stations on the pier including Rehab, Triage and Staging.
“If a fire got out of control on a ship this size, we could be fighting it for hours, or even days,” said Chief Jared Whittemore, CNRJ F&ES. “The goal is to always have teams in Staging, ready to relieve the firefighters on the ship. We can then take those relieved hose teams to Rehab, where they can cool down and recuperate before rotating back to Staging to stay in the fight.
“Overall, communication flowed really well with America’s team and we demonstrated our ability to fight a major fire together,” Whittemore said.
Rescue and Assistance teams, or R&A, also arrived from USS Green Bay (LPD 20) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47), which are forward-deployed to Sasebo as part of Amphibious Squadron 11 along with America.