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RAF MILDENHALL, England — Aircraft hangars at RAF Lakenheath will soon be able to help themselves in case of a fire.

Workers at Hangars 6 and 7 — where the 48th Fighter Wing’s jets go for regular maintenance — used to rely mainly on hand held extinguishers and the local fire department for protection from flames.

But a major set of upgrades started last March to install high-tech fire suppression systems in the hangars should make the buildings more able to defend themselves, said Fola Adeyemi, a project manager with the 48th Civil Engineer Squadron.

The new systems include sprinklers that, when triggered by flames, shower the hangars with water infused with a special chemical that creates a fire-retardant foam intended to douse a blaze before firefighters arrive on the scene, Adeyemi said.

Work on the systems began in March in the 56,000-square-foot Hangar 6, where workers installed the sprinklers, water storage, foam and waste water tanks, among other improvements at a cost of $2.4 million, Adeyemi said. Work on the hangar was completed in December, he said.

Next up is the main maintenance hangar on the base, the 90,529-square-foot Hangar 7, where work is due to start on similar improvements in April, said 48th CES project manager Kevin Curry. From then, it could take slightly less than a year to complete the $3.77 million upgrade, he said.

“Basically, we are installing fire suppression in the whole of Hangar 7, including offices and the actually hangar itself,” he said.

One of the trickier parts of the installation has been planning the work around the offices and people still working inside, Adeyemi said.

But with a little shuffling around of resources, space and schedules, the impact on flight operations is negligible, said Lt. Col. Steven Lawlor, deputy commander for the 48th Maintenance Group.

“The impact is pretty minimal,” Lawlor said.

Project managers and Lawlor praised the new fire suppression system, lauding it as a major safety improvement for buildings that house multimillion-dollar aircraft loaded with explosive fuel.

“It’s a good improvement,” Lawlor said. “It’s a very valuable resource.”


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