Danger Zone: Army, Okinawa fire fighters team up to protect property

Base Info
Army officials recently attended two municipal fire brigade demonstrations recently that showcased the capabilities of the Nirai and Naha fire departments. Photo by Rick Rzepka, USAG Okinawa
Army officials recently attended two municipal fire brigade demonstrations recently that showcased the capabilities of the Nirai and Naha fire departments. Photo by Rick Rzepka, USAG Okinawa

Danger Zone: Army, Okinawa fire fighters team up to protect property

by: Rick Rzepka | .
USAG Okinawa | .
published: January 13, 2016

Kenny Loggins’ indispensable 80's anthem, “Danger Zone,” blared over the loud speakers and hundreds watched in awe, as Naha City firefighters launched themselves off of the Okinawa Cellular Stadium during a rappelling demonstration Jan. 9 during the annual fire brigade review.

The review was one of two fire brigade demonstrations attended by Army officials recently, and was held to showcase the capabilities of the Nirai and Naha fire departments while beseeching a safe and productive year, according to officials.

Naha City Mayor Mikiko Shiroma expressed her respect and gratitude for the firefighters and pledged to continue to develop the city’s capacity as a “disaster resilient city.”

“As we celebrate the New Year, I'd like to ask all Naha City fire fighters, volunteer fire fighters and female auxiliary group to take pride in what you do to protect our precious city while training to maintain your mental strength and physical condition,” said Shiroma.

The Mayor of Naha City along with the Nirai Fire Department and the U.S. Army on Okinawa have formed a coalition, which establishes mutual assistance for fire-fighting operations under Mutual Aid Fire-Fighting Support Agreements.

The agreements state that when requested, fire-fighting capabilities may be requested by either the Army fire-fighting units or the local firefighting-units, creating a unique partnership forged to protect lives and property against fire and other disasters.

“U.S. Army Garrison – Okinawa fire fighters stand ready to deploy and assist the local communities at a moment’s notice,” said Garrison Commander, Lt. Col. Lance A. O’Bryan. “We are wholly committed to our role as good neighbors and to the communities in which we work and play … And we’ll continue to hope for stability and calm but will always remain prepared to protect the lives and property of our Okinawan neighbors when called upon,” he said.

Several weather-related events have highlighted the importance of emergency services recently. Most notably, the ubiquitous typhoon. As Typhoon Dujuan bore down on the Yonaguni Island area Sept. 28, 2015 it leveled several houses and damaged hundreds more with gusts of up to 81-meters-per-second. Weather and other unforeseen events make the role of the fire fighter critical.

“The fire department should play an important role in the disasters or any unexpected incidents,” said Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga during a speech at the Naha review. “Okinawa Prefecture is promoting island development with communities as safe and hospitable places to live. In order to do that, strengthening the disaster prevention and emergency implementation are one of our top priority projects on Okinawa,” said Onaga.

For the U.S. Army on Okinawa, building and maintaining relationships with local first responders is a must due to the tyranny of distance that exists for emergency support.

“A trusted training partnership is the most likely type of partnership as Nirai Fire Department is our nearest ambulatory support geographically,” said Operations Specialist Billy “the Kid” Ullmark. “There exists a healthy and trusted relationship with local emergency services, and their willingness to participate in last year's anti-terrorism exercise was proof of that,” he said.
Ullmark, said that the Fire Brigade Reviews were impressive and very successful in demonstrating the capacity and synchronous links between the various emergency services agencies on island.

“It is obvious our local national counterparts keep well trained and have state-of-the art equipment,” said Ullmark. “At this point, it is the Joint Emergency Services objective to stay abreast of communication compatibility issues for seamless interoperability. Just as Nirai has supported past ambulatory requests, [U.S. Army Garrison] - Okinawa has come to the assistance of fire-related incidents outside the fence line in Yomitan.”

“Out along the edge, is always where I burn to be … The further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.” - Kenny Loggins – “Danger Zone”