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Firefighters prove they’re ‘best of the best’

Tracey Snyder,Schreiver fire department captain, participates in a monthly training exercise Feb. 10, 2013, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

Tracey Snyder,Schreiver fire department captain, participates in a monthly training exercise Feb. 10, 2013, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Julius Delos Reyes)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Bragging is not their strong suit; they don't like to talk about themselves. They are not shy; they just want their actions to speak for themselves.

For three years in a row, the Schriever fire department earned the Air Force Space Command Small Fire Department of the Year award. With these accolades, the Schriever firefighters just made a statement regarding their professionalism and excellence.

"Earning the AFSPC Small Fire Department of the Year for a third year in a row is simply awesome," said Dwayne Painter, Schriever fire department chief. "The recognition is an excellent morale-booster. Being selected by command validates what a great team we have and how well they work together accomplishing our fire emergency services mission. I'm personally proud to have the pleasure of working with this great team every day."

In 2013, the fire department supported the Schriever community of more than 8,100 members by responding to more than 230 emergencies. The firefighters also reviewed more than 610 projects to ensure safe building design across the installation.

Though the firefighters primarily support the base, they also respond to the Colorado Springs community when needed. In 2012, 14 firefighters deployed to the U.S. Air Force Academy to defend against the Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed more than 340 homes and burned 18,000 acres of land in the region.

A year hadn't passed Waldo Canyon when the most destructive fire in Colorado history, the Black Forest fire, destroyed 486 homes, charred more than 14,000 acres of land and caused more than $85 million worth of damage. Again, the Schriever firefighters were called to provide support. Firefighters extinguished fires and dug fire breaks in an effort to save more than 3,670 homes.

"It fell under the mutual aid agreement we have with El Paso County and the surrounding fire departments," said Tracey Snyder, Schriever Fire Department captain. "They needed the additional resources so that's what we provided. Our assignment during the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires was structure protection."

Snyder said the team of firefighters was assigned to protect certain Black Forest. He said he appreciated the working relationship between and among different agencies.

"The teamwork was fantastic," he said. "It was a lot of hard, grueling hours. It was great teamwork, not just at the local level, but also at the incident level. We have federal agencies working with state, county and other departments."

As part of its fire prevention program, the Schriever fire department identified more than 30 safety deficiencies and implemented corrective actions to protect Department of Defense assets and personnel here. It also assessed emergency plans for mission critical facilities and conducted organized and timely evacuation drills for Schriever personnel.

"Receiving the awards was pretty good," said Paul Vigeant, Schriever firefighter. "It speaks for the hard work and effort we put into doing our job and doing it right the first time."

Snyder echoed the sentiment and said to be recognized at the major command level for the department is a huge accomplishment.

"There are a lot of other bases out there that are our size," the captain said. "When you talk about what that means at Schriever, it's a pretty big honor. From the teamwork aspect, it shows that our hard work is paying off."
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