Yokota, Fussa city firefighters team up for mock rescue operation
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — In another display of their commitment to providing mutual aid, Yokota firefighters linked up with their Fussa city counterparts on Wednesday for a joint exercise centered around a mock rescue operation at the base’s Taiyo Recreation Center.
The event helped kick off Japan’s annual Fall Fire Prevention Week, which runs through Tuesday. More than 50 personnel from the Yokota and Tokyo fire departments took part.
“We’re trying to improve our practice and get together more often to train as a team,” said Mark Lawler, fire chief for Yokota’s 374th Civil Engineer Squadron. “They bring a ton of firepower to Yokota, if needed.”
On Wednesday, that haul included a ladder truck, water supply, ambulances and about 30 members of the Tokyo Fire Department’s Fussa Fire Station. They arrived on scene after Yokota emergency officials, who determined they’d need assistance fighting the Taiyo “blaze,” phoned 119.
Dialing 119 is the Japan equivalent to 911 in the states. It was established Nov. 9, 1987.
Working beside base firefighters, the Japanese contingent tapped a nearby hydrant, fought the fire, set up a triage area and helped “rescue” six people, including two who sought refuge on the roof and others down on the recreation center’s back patio.
Two incident commanders, representing each side, coordinated the overall response. Smoke grenades were used to simulate the fire.
Lawler said the two fire departments meet monthly to discuss numerous issues and hammer out strategic plans. “We’re doing as many of these training sessions as possible,” he added.
During such drills, the language barrier must be overcome and the Japanese sometimes employ different firefighting tactics. But Lawler said one thing remains certain.
“At 2 a.m. in the morning, if we ever need them, they’ll be there,” he said. “There’s an agreement between the base and Tokyo Fire Department to give mutual aid. That’s why we train together and always support each other.”
Fire Prevention Week is aimed at promoting safety awareness and reducing potential hazards.
Fussa Fire Station chief Masao Kumada said rehearsals such as the one Wednesday are highly beneficial to both nations.
“It’s important to cooperate with each other when one of us needs help,” Fussa Fire Station chief Masao Kumada said through a translator. “Our relationship has been very good. This kind of training will be very helpful if a real fire or disaster occurs.”