Red Card certification opens up more opportunities for Westover firefighters

  • Published
  • By SrA Dylan Auger
  • 439th AW/PA

Members of the Westover fire department on Westover Air Reserve Base often perform difficult tasks and training to maintain peak ability and functionality of the department.

Westover Fire Chief David Benedetti has a simple explanation for Westover Fire’s presence on Westover ARB, but added that the department does perform many additional tasks.

“Our main mission is the C-5 aircraft.” Said Benedetti. “In addition to the C-5, we perform structural firefighting, emergency medical services, and we have a mutual aid agreement with surrounding communities.”

Benedetti said 23 of his firefighters, approximately 33 percent of the department, have chosen to take the opportunity to become Red Card certified; taking their capabilities and opportunities to another level.

“To become Red Card certified, firefighters must partake in yearly online and in-classroom classes, participate in a prescribed burn event, and perform a PACK test,” said Benedetti.

The PACK test is a 3 mile hike that must be completed in 45 minutes, while carrying a pack weighted 40 lbs.

The certification is not mandatory for Westover firefighters, but many choose to get the certification in order to improve their skills and open up more opportunities for themselves outside of Westover, Benedetti said.

Benedetti said that the entire department can respond to fires off base if needed, but he tries to limit that exposure to the firefighters who do possess Red Card certification.

“We have been able to send Westover personnel out to fires outside of Westover, including in states like California, Oregon, and Utah,” said Benedetti.

Benedetti welcomes the deployments and believes they help the entire department improve.

“The experience they bring back helps them as firefighters and the entire department as a whole,” Benedetti said. “They have a different perspective on how things work outside this fence.”

Benedetti said the Red Card program has been taken from the ground up since his arrival to Westover.

“When I started here, this program was nonexistent,” said Benedetti. “We had some wildland tools and apparatus, but since then it has grown to a team of people with their own equipment and packs.”

Benedetti said he will continue to provide opportunities for his firefighters to work outside of the gates as they arise.

“Any time we can enhance the program or send individuals off base for more experience, we’re going to,” said Benedetti.

Westover does have the capacity to teach Red Card certification courses and all Westover firefighters may apply to test for Red Card certification.