NAS Jacksonville, Jacksonville Fire-Rescue hold plane crash exercise

Drill was first in which both agencies have worked together

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If you saw a large plume of smoke or heard emergency sirens near Naval Air Station Jacksonville on Thursday morning, rest easy. It was all part of a planned simulated plane crash exercise.

The safety drill isn't anything new to NAS Jax, which frequently does these types of exercises to be prepared in case a real-life situation should occur.

It was just a drill Thursday, but an event like it actually happened in 2005 at Tillie K. Fowler Regional Park across the street -- the same park where Thursday's exercise was held. Then, a pilot and co-pilot were killed after their plane crashed in the park.

Air crewmen from VP-45 squadron, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and Jacksonville Fire-Rescue practiced a simulated plane crash.

"What it does, it allows them to put hands on with the other firefighters from JFRD, two fantastic teams working as one," said Mark Russo, fire chief of First Coast Navy Fire and Emergency Services.

"Accidents know no boundaries, and so if an accident occurs on base or off, it's important for both departments to work together in a unified fashion," JFRD Fire Chief Martin Senterfitt said.

Crews used smoke and mannequins to make it look like there was a real fire on the plane, with real victims. It gave personnel the opportunity to enhance their skills and readiness.

It also allowed them the opportunity to work through various scenarios and assess procedures for reporting, fighting and recovering from a plane crash.

Rescue units from entry level to the most senior members were involved to practice their role in case of emergency.

"When a real-world event does take place, they aren't learning from that event. They have already done that training and their reaction is much better," said Jim Butters, installation training officer at NAS Jax.

The base does a plane crash exercise every year, but this is the first time it has also worked with JFRD.

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