Vehicle mechanics help beat the heat

Airman 1st Class Wesley Jones, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle mechanic, guides a fire dozer blade actuating cylinder while Darryl Dalcerri, 30th LRS vehicle mechanic, lowers the cylinder for repair, July 14, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The vehicle maintenance crew is responsible for ensuring the base’s vehicle fleet is properly maintained, safe for operational use – and mission ready at all times. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

Airman 1st Class Wesley Jones, 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle mechanic, guides a fire dozer blade actuating cylinder while Darryl Dalcerri, 30th LRS vehicle mechanic, lowers the cylinder for repair, July 14, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The vehicle maintenance crew is responsible for ensuring the base’s vehicle fleet is properly maintained, safe for operational use – and mission ready at all times. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert J. Volio/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Between the current drought conditions and the sweltering summer heat, wildfires aren't exactly a rare occurrence on the Central Coast. A recent string of vegetation fires have kept the local community and members of the fire department heavily engaged. For members of the 30th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance crew, it's just another opportunity to showcase their fire prevention vehicles.

The vehicle maintenance crew is responsible for ensuring the base's vehicle fleet is properly maintained, safe for operational use - and mission ready at all times.

"We do weekly station checks on our fire trucks to make sure everything is working properly and nothing is broken," said Airman 1st Class Wesley Jones, 30th LRS vehicle mechanic. "We also perform regular packing and pump tests to make sure that the fire trucks are actually capable of putting out water. We change the oil, check all the fluids, brakes and everything else to ensure they are working properly and nothing happens while they're out there being used to put out fires. It's our job to make sure everything out in the field goes smoothly, and it all starts in here."

These fire trucks and dozers function as a combatant to terminate the fires, and their usage usually varies on the location of a fire.

"The type of vehicles we send out to the fires depend entirely on the geographical location during a given situation," said Jones. "For the most part, the fire dozers handle more wild land fires than the fire trucks, but we can also pull the fire trucks because of their four-wheel drive capabilities to help get further off into the distance."

These vehicles have been a crucial element in the recent successful battles against local wildfires.

"We've been using the fire dozers for the wildfires we've been dealing with the past couple weeks," said Darryl Dalcerri, 30th LRS vehicle mechanic. "Recently, a wildfire broke out by the Lompoc gate over by Santa Lucia Road. The fire dozers were tasked for that fire and responded by extinguishing those flames relatively quickly, which was impressive."

The fire dozer units are also important because of their sparse existence in the Air Force.

"Vandenberg's fire dozer fleet is one of two in the Air Force and the only active duty wild land firefighting unit," said Dalcerri.

Due to the uncertain nature of when the next wildfire will arise, these vehicles need to remain fully functional for whenever they may be needed.

"When a vehicle goes down and needs repair or comes in for routine maintenance, it becomes a big deal," said Jones. "No matter the reason, it becomes our responsibility as an entire flight to quickly but safely get the vehicles back out to their organizations. If even a few fire trucks are out of service there is no telling how much land could be destroyed in the next fire without them, or how many homes and lives could've been spared if they had all their firefighting resources. It is pivotal to have these vehicles fully operational and mission ready at all times."

Seeing their hard work translate into mission success out in the field is a rewarding experience for the vehicle maintainers.

"I feel a sense of ownership," said Dalcerri. "Last week, I had the opportunity to witness this first hand. From our shop we could see the plume of smoke rising from the Lompoc gate. Moments later, we watched the truck and trailers loaded with the fire dozers heading straight for Santa Lucia Canyon. We were confident that the fire dozers would perform well. The skilled operators and the well-maintained fire dozers made short work of the Santa Lucia Canyon fire, literally stopping what could have been a major wild land fire."