56th CES firefighters take heat

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- If a building catches fire or a jet crashes, the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron Fire Protection Flight at Luke will take the problem head on. Led by Fire Chief Anthony Rabonza, the flight has 74 fire department personnel made up of 21 civilians and 53 active duty of which eight are deployed. 

Each station has a particular mission. Fire station one, located next to the wing headquarters building, is equipped with up to five vehicles, each manned by two to four people. The flight gets three to four flightline responses a day ranging from flight control malfunctions to hot breaks. 

They also receive three to four mutual aid responses a week, which occurs when they respond with the Phoenix Fire Department to areas within a five mile radius of the base. 

Fire station two is located next to the radar tower and deals only with flightline incidents. Fire station three deals solely with structural fires and is located in base housing. 

The work week ranges from 40 to 72 hours and is divided into two 24-hour shifts. Shift A is led by Shift Supervisor Master Sgt. Rick King and shift B is led by Shift Supervisor Master Sgt. Paul Phillips. The fire fighters must reside at the station for the entire shift and sleep there. 

The work schedule allows each fire fighter in the flight three days off every two weeks. During the shift, fire fighters can study career development courses, do school work, learn crew chief responsibilities and operations, maintain vehicles and perform personal training daily. 

The flight works as a team and lives as a family -- from putting out fires and performing exercises to hanging out and enjoying meals together, they demonstrate the wingman concept daily.