When a Navy F/18D suffered a catastrophic engine failure after takeoff from NAS Oceana, in Virgina Beach, VA, the first two officers from VBFD on scene had some immediate and critical decisions to make. District Fire Chief Michael Barakey and Captain Greg Benshoff had to organize a plan that would involve nearly 200 firefighters, plus Navy fire crews, State Police, NCIS, and other first responders.
The officers implemented an incident command board on the side of a command vehicle, and once the incident escalated to a 5th alarm, a larger command vehicle was brought in to manage the fire and search. Chief Barakey called the fire, “the most complex in my (18 year) career.”
This incident highlights the importance of not only training related to ordinary incident management, but unified command and unusual experiences.
Back in December 2011, the Navy conducted a training exercise for Virginia Beach and surrounding first responders, simulating a downed fighter jet unable to return to base after an in-flight emergency was called. The drill may have played a roll in the smooth operational activities during the early April accident.