The only firefighting dozer team in the U.S. Air Force is at Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. The 30th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operators’ fire dozer team consists of approximately ten Airmen and civilian workers. Their job is to support the firefighters by helping to limit damage and contain the spread of wildfires.
“Because of the sheer size of our equipment we can accomplish a lot within seconds,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Robertson, a heavy equipment operator. “When we go out to a fire, those who have already responded breathe a sigh of relief because we can accomplish a huge amount of work in a short amount of time.”
When a fire breaks out, the base firefighters are the first to respond. When the fire is too difficult to control, the fire dozer team is called to assist.
“We are supporting the fire department, and will get their call if they need us,” said Raymond Boothe, 30th CES equipment supervisor. “We are not sitting around waiting for a call though — we are constantly working all over base, performing our job as heavy equipment operators.”
“Vandenberg is the only base in the Air Force that has a fire dozer team,” said Robertson. “So this is the only place in our career that we are going to get this kind of experience and training.”
Airmen also receive a Red Card certification, which states the holder has the experience and training necessary to fight wildfires. This certification is utilized by both state and federal fire agencies and is useful for civilian jobs across the nation.
Another significant component of the job is supporting the space mission. The fire dozer team is on stand-by during every launch, prepared to contain fires that start and prevent damage to base assets.