Menwith Hill firefighters win back to back USAFE awards

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason W. Cochran
  • 501CSW/PA

When a small group of people is motivated by the pursuit of excellence, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

It was this pursuit that pushed RAF Menwith Hill’s fire department to earn recognition as USAFE’s best small fire department for the second year in a row, as well as USAFE’s best fire prevention program on their first eligible year.

Distant from the primary operational locations of the 501st, the fire department at Menwith Hill has to contend with a set of unique challenges, said Paul Klug, 421st Air Base Squadron deputy fire chief. One of these challenges was obtaining mandated medical training.

“The Air Force has mandated that we have a certain amount of EMTs,” said Klug. “Additionally everyone who isn't an EMT must have the emergency medical responder or EMR certifications.”

This is an easy requirement for most Air Force fire departments, said Klug. But the distance between Menwith Hill and other facilities meant the team ran into difficulties getting EMT’s to locations that provide United States government certified training.

“What we were able to do is go through our command to get equivalency letters,” said Klug. “We went looking through the U.K.’s licencing and certifications and found FREC 3 or first responder emergency care. With this training and these equivalency letters we were able to get our members the training they needed.

Menwith Hill’s fire department was the first fire department in the U.K. to achieve an EMR equivalency solution, said Klug. The additional training and increased number of certified personnel was crucial in saving a life on base.

“We had a base affiliate suffer a heart attack,” said Klug. “We got there very quickly and worked with the North Yorkshire Ambulance service to get him transported. He got into the emergency room just in time to get two stents put in. The doctors there credited us for saving his life.”

While responding to emergencies and being able to effectively resolve them is a crucial capability for a fire department, being able to prevent emergencies in the first place is equally important.

Menwith Hill’s fire prevention program is a two person operation run by Michelle Needham, 421st ABS assistant chief of fire prevention. As a small shop, both Needham and her colleague, Rebekah Bennet, 421st ABS fire inspector, need to be absolute experts in their field.

“I think the most important thing that we’ve done this year is find an error on a fire strategy for a planned building,” said Needham. “Normally when buildings are designed, compartmentation is identified within the strategy.
With this design compartmentation hadn’t been included.”

It was Needham’s in depth knowledge of both U.S. and U.K. fire codes that enabled her to identify this deficiency and prevent it from becoming a life threatening issue.

In addition to ensuring the safety of on-base facilities, the fire prevention office has gone out to local schools and educated the children there on proper fire safety, improving the safety of the surrounding villages, and promoting positive relations between the base and its surrounding community.

“I think that most people will have never heard about RAF Menwith Hill.We have a small footprint but we have an extremely important mission,” said Klug. “The average mindset of our firefighters and the dedication they have to this profession is second to none.”