Vandenberg Fire Department wins DoD level award

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

The Vandenberg Air Force Base Fire Department was recently recognized as the winner of the 2016 Department of Defense Fire and Emergency Services of the Year award in the highly competitive, medium fire department category.

In 2016, they distinguished themselves as the best through their innovativeness and exceptional dedication.

“The Vandenberg Fire Department challenges every notion of what an emergency services agency could be, and changes every expectation of what it should be,” said Mark Farias, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department chief.

Their achievements included battling a 13,000 acre fire, becoming reaccredited through the Commission of Public Safety Excellence and developing an effective and adaptive incident command system, called the Blue Card system.

“We came up with our own incident command system, the blue card system,” said Farias. “The National Incident Command System (ICS) was developed to manage enormous incidents like California wildland fires. With the vast amount of required resources needed for massive fires, a framework is necessary to manage these events safely and effectively. Although the ICS is reliable for larger fire accountability, we discovered a need for a system to operate within a smaller scale, which accounts for 95% of the incidents we combat. The Blue Card System facilitated that extremely well. It has significantly improved our fire ground communication, accountability and resource employment. Our fire crews have been training other Air Force fire departments, and it’s quickly spreading to the civilian fire departments.”

Known for going above and beyond, the VAFB fire crew also implemented a water rescue program into their training to maintain safety along Vandenberg’s coastline.

“We now have a water rescue program, that the Air Force doesn’t require, but we have 42 miles of coastline filled with recreational and commercial activity, so we asked ourselves ‘if a plane crashed over the water, or a boat is sinking, or a surfer gets into trouble…what would we do?’ and we decided to put together a water rescue program,” said Farias. “Now we have the capability that’s been around for a few years and we’ve rescued approximately a dozen people who have found themselves in a tough spot.”

The fire and emergency services community is on duty 24-hours a day, many times putting their own lives on the line while protecting those who defend America.

“When you get a team award, such as Fire Department of the Year, it just speaks volumes to the leadership and the managers that we have here,” said Tech. Sgt. Cole Conner, 30th CES NCOIC of logistics. “It’s not a one man show. Every division has a hand in the pot – training, logistics, prevention – everyone is dedicated here. I’ve seen some men and women do some great things here, and I’m extremely proud of the people I work with.”

Not only does the fire department achieve proficiency in day-to-day operations, they excel.

“How the folks in our community live, work and play is their business…what happens when things go wrong, is ours. Our mission statement is Serve – Save – Survive…and we do it better than anyone else! You can’t be great if your standard is mediocre,” said Farias. “We want to be the fire department that other departments are calling to see how we’re doing it. The goal is to lead with a vapor trail. The only way to do that is to own it, put your mark on it and never stop trying to make it better. Ownership equals passion, passion equals performance, and performance equals the distinction of being recognized as the best in the business.”