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Gowen firefighters respond to house fire

Staff Sgts. Damon Williams (left) and Jeffrey Sawmiller, 124th CEF, and the 4,000 gallon water tender responded to the off-base house fire that was caused by a charcoal grill Sept. 23.

Staff Sgts. Damon Williams (left) and Jeffrey Sawmiller, 124th CEF, and the 4,000 gallon water tender responded to the off-base house fire that was caused by a charcoal grill Sept. 23.

Oct. 10, 2012 -- Advance interagency training proves valuable. Staff Sgts. Jeffrey Sawmiller and Damon Williams were already 14 hours in to their 24-hour shift when they got the call at around 9 p.m. Sept. 23.

Staff Sgts. Jeffrey Sawmiller and Damon Williams were already 14 hours in to their 24-hour shift when they got the call at around 9 p.m., Sept. 23.

"A" Shift supervisor and assistant fire chief Ron Earl told the young firefighters assigned to the 124th Civil Engineer Squadron to suit up. Boise Fire Department needed assistance from the Gowen Field Fire Department off base.

A call of that type doesn't happen very often, maybe three or four times a year, said Chief Master Sgt. Bill Mattravers, Gowen Field fire chief.

"Most of the time we might whip outside the main gate to put out a car fire or respond to a wild land fire. That's about it," said Chief Mattravers.

This time was different. A house had caught fire in the South Cole area a few miles off base. Boise Fire's 2,000 gallon water tender was running low on water and trucks couldn't access the fire hydrant because it was further away from the flames than their hoses could reach.

A recent three-day training exercise with GFFD to assess inventory, training and equipment capabilities reminded BFD firefighters on scene that a fully capable fire department was nearby. The call quickly went out through Ada County Dispatch.

Their silver proximity suits and "U.S. AIR FORCE" stenciled across the side of the 4,000-gallon water tender made it obvious that to all that Sgts. Sawmiller and Williams came from nearby Gowen Field to lend a hand.

They responded quickly, enjoying the commute almost as much as they enjoyed being able to assist in the firefighting effort.
"It was nice to be able to go off base to help Boise Fire out, said Sawmiller.

"It was fun getting to run a few stoplights," said Williams.
Within 15 minutes from receiving the call, Sawmiller, Williams and the Boise Fire Department were putting water on the fire provided by Gowen Field.

Both firefighters have worked full-time for the Gowen Field Fire Department for about two years. This was their first off-base fire response. According to Chief Mattravers, military support of civilian firefighting efforts makes sense in a circumstance like this.

"In a nutshell: our equipment is prime, our skill set is a premium, our location is optimum, and our willingness is priceless," the chief said.