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48th CES Firefighters conduct confined space training

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters simulate recovering a patient during a confined space training exercise Royal Air force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. Confined-space rescue becomes necessary when someone becomes trapped in areas such as tanks, vaults and tunnels. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters simulate recovering a patient during a confined space training exercise Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. Confined-space rescue becomes necessary when someone becomes trapped in areas such as tanks, vaults and tunnels. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

A 48th Civil Engineer Squadron Airman exits a bunker with a simulated patient during a confined space training exercise Royal Air force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. RAF Lakenheath has more than 100 different confined spaces on base the 48th CES Airmen may potentially respond to if an emergency situation requires it. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Christopher S. Sparks)

A 48th Civil Engineer Squadron Airman exits a bunker with a simulated patient during a confined space training exercise Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. RAF Lakenheath has more than 100 different confined spaces on base the 48th CES Airmen may potentially respond to if an emergency situation requires it. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters conduct a confined space training exercise at Royal Air force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. The exercise is an annual requirement to maintain confined-space rescue and recovery readiness capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters conduct a confined space training exercise at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. The exercise is an annual requirement to maintain confined-space rescue and recovery readiness capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters adjust oxygen tank levels during a confined space training exercise Royal Air force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. Ventilation hoses provide air and exhaust toxic vapors during rescue to help patients and protect responders. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters adjust oxygen tank levels during a confined space training exercise Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. Ventilation hoses provide air and exhaust toxic vapors during rescue to help patients and protect responders. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters enter a bunker during a confined space training exercise Royal Air force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. The exercise hones the skills of seasoned firefighters, and expands the skillset of inbound 48th CES fire department Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Christopher S. Sparks)

48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters enter a bunker during a confined space training exercise Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. The exercise hones the skills of seasoned firefighters, and expands the skillset of inbound 48th CES fire department Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Christopher S. Sparks)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- 48th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters conducted a confined-space training at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Sept. 24. The one day exercise consisted of executing entry, exit and retrieval procedures during simulated confined-space emergencies.

Prior to May 2018, confined-space rescue was a primary responsibility of the 56th Rescue Squadron. Since the relocation of the 56th RQS to Italy on May 15, the 48th CES fire department has stepped-in to assume the responsibilities as the primary response asset for rescue concerns on base.

“Confined space rescue has always been a part of our operations,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Wittwer, a 48th CES firefighter. “With the departure of the 56th RQS, we are ready to fulfill any vital responsibilities for the mission.”


Rescue training techniques conducted by the fire department must adhere to Occupational Health and Safety Administration approved entry procedures to ensure personnel and patient safety.

Additionally, the Ministry of Defense has very thorough procedures for both on and off base incidents that must be observed to make a confined space rescue entry possible. For example, a rescue team must be on site should something go wrong with the entry team.

“There are a lot of technical components involved in order to be effective with confined space rescue and retrieval,” Wittwer said. “If we’re not proficient on this, we risk injury to ourselves and our patients.”

Since the rescue squadron’s departure, the 48th CES fire department has taken an active approach in standard readiness capabilities through quarterly training to maintain continuity regardless of the influx of inbound and outbound Airmen, ensuring minimal gaps in readiness.

“We are in the prevention, response and rescue business of serving both RAF Lakenheath and the off-base community,” said Master Sgt. Roscoe Mays, a 48th fire security officer and instructor. “We are here to ensure that if someone has a bad day or something doesn’t go right, we are able to execute our mission and get people out of harm’s way.”