NAVAL AIR STATION MAINTAINS EFFICIENT FIRE DEPARTMENT
“Sailor” Firemen from Alameda Naval Air Base Train for Eight Weeks at San Francisco School
IN days gone by, a “fireman” in the Navy was a member of the “black gang” that helped pile up steam in the boilers of battlewagons, but that definition is outmoded in these days of modern warfare.
Take the Navy’s firemen stationed at the Alameda Naval Air Base in San Francisco Bay. They certainly do a lot of things, but tending boilers on a battlewagon is not included in their duties.
For under the direction of Chief Boatswain’s Mate H. A. Benthusen, Fire Chief at the Naval Air Station, these men perform the duties that are common to the firemen of any large city.
When the station was installed nearly three years ago, one of the first considerations was adequate fire protection. Chief Benthusen was called back from retirement to take over. During retirement he had been assisting the fire department at McClelland Field, Sacramento, an Army base.
The department at the Naval Air Station consists of an undisclosed number (because of censorship restrictions) of trucks including pumpers, ladder trucks and crash trucks. All of them are equipped with foam, carbon dioxide and water extinguishers. They are all of the cannister type, carried on the seaman’s back. In addition, great quantities of foam are available for use by the pumpers.
The present department is built around a nucleus of eighteen men who were trained by the San Francisco Fire Department at its modern drill tower and school with the aid of Chief Charles Brennan.
Those men in turn trained new members of the department in ventilation, respiration, plane rescue work, operation of gas masks and rescue breathing apayatus, fire hydraulics, gas, oil plane fires, etc.
Chief Benthuscn is assisted by Francis Arbuckle, Machinist’s Mate, First Class.
Plane Crash Fires
Chief duty of the fire department at the Naval Station is to take care of plane crashes. The department’s first job is to get the pilot out of the plane, then extinguish the fire. When a truck is called for a plane crash the men on the truck wear asbestos suits and are prepared on arrival to immediately go into the fire to rescue the pilot. All Naval Air Station firemen are picked with a view toward their bravery in face of danger.
The buildings at the station are all new and very modern. They are concrete and consequently do not constitute a fire hazard, as do the wooden buildings of so many military camps. Sea and land plane hangars are equipped with sprinkling systems that will flood the hangars in thirty seconds.
There is a station order against nonsafety matches, which aye called “courtmartial matches.” The introduction, possession or use of any match that can be lighted in any way other than by striking it on the abrasive material attached to the match container is strictly forbidden by Captain Frank R. McCrary, Commanding Officer.
In addition to the fire trucks, each building is equipped with apparatus auxiliary to the sprinklers. Ladders, pails, hand extinguishers and other equipment are widely distributed.
The Navy, always noted for doing a good job, is proud of its fire-fighting equipment and ability at the Alameda Naval Air Station.