Hoover Dam Fire Brigade focuses on ‘protecting, rescuing facility workers’
With their training successfully completed, the Hoover Dam Fire Brigade team members take time for a group photo. Standing, l-r, are Johnathan Sanchez, Elizabeth Higgins, Elijah Long, Ryan Moravitz, Captain Jason K Takeshita, Nick DeCorse, Jared Parry, and Joe Grabish. Photos courtesy of Arnold Peņa,
“We are trained to combat combustible, flammable liquids and gases, live electrical, combustible metals.”
That purposeful statement explains why a dedicated group of volunteers spent four days in mid-June at the Hoover Dam Police Station and at various locations throughout Hoover Dam. Working in unison, the team members honed their skills with burn props, and in a specially equipped firefighting training trailer, confined spaces, and performing vertical rescues.
“We were having our annual training,” said Jason K. Takeshita, captain of the Hoover Dam Fire Brigade. “Our team of volunteers train monthly, and then participate in one week of focused Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-compliant training, annually, such as this month’s training.
Fire brigades have existed at Hoover Dam since the early days of its construction, because the project site was so remote.
“Even today, we are still considered a remote site due to the distance [from] and [the amount of] response time of the other fire agencies,” said Takeshita. “Because of this, it is an OSHA requirement that we exist.”
Additionally, the other departments and fire agencies lack the resources and specialized staffing to conduct confined space, vertical, and technical rescues of Hoover Dam employees, he said.
“But we only fight fire as needed to protect and rescue facility workers and spreading to adjacent structures and equipment,” Takeshita said.
The current brigade has nine members – Mechanical Engineer Jonathan Sanchez, Custodial Workers Elizabeth Higgins and Elijah Long, Power Systems Electrician Joe Grabish, and Hydro-electric Mechanics Ryan Moravitz, Nick DeCorse, and Jared Parry, as well as Takeshita.
Fire Rescue duty is voluntary and it is open to all Hoover Dam powerhouse employees. Further, team members, whose participation is determined by the Safety Department, can serve as long as he or she wishes. However, each member must pass an annual physical and attend OSHA-required annual training for re-certification.
Fire Brigade members work together as a valve team when they practice their approach in extinguishing an open flame and closing the valve during a portion of their training outside the Hoover Dam Police Department Station.
Valve team members expertly aim their high pressure water hoses, set at “spray,” to knock down and extinguish an open flame. Their efforts help to eliminate one element – heat – from the trio that all fires need to exist – heat, fuel and oxygen.
Jared Parry, left, Captain Jason K. Takeshita, center, and Jonathan Sanchez confront a raging blaze inside the Fire Simulator. This simulation produces fire “rollover” conditions and great quantities of smoke in Immediate Danger to Life and Health (IDLH) conditions. Objectives of this training include demonstrating to the firefighters how fire reacts, and allowing them to “. . . get a feeling and trustworthiness of the gear.” Temperatures during the exercise exceeded 400 degrees F.
Ready for response, but in “standby” mode, Jared Parry, left, and Instructor Arnold Pena, right, of American Emergency Response Training, a contractor, are prepared to act as a Rescue Intervention Team (RIT) for team members as they train in fighting a confined space blaze. The specially equipped training trailer was parked at the Hoover Dam Police Station parking lot.
ABOVE LEFT – As they hang suspended against the wall of the Nevada spillway, Ryan Moravitz rotates the “victim,” Elizabeth Higgins, simulating tilting and clearing an obstructed airway while tending the basket and raising her to the top of the spillway.
ABOVE RIGHT – Ryan Moravitz, left, Captain Jason K Takeshita, center, Jonathan Sanchez secure the rescue basket to the Nevada spillway handrail.