US - Japan, fighting fires for 70 years
YOKOTA AIR BASE - Japan -- On October 24, 2015, team Yokota members gathered at the base's main fire station to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Yokota's fire emergency services.
During the celebration, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department gave the Yokota community an opportunity to have fun while learning important fire prevention tips.
This anniversary is especially noteworthy as it serves as a reminder that Airmen were fighting fires at Yokota before they were called Airmen. The formally known Yokota Army Air Base fire department was established two years prior to the Air Force being recognized as a separate service.
Though many things about the fire department have changed since 1945, one thing has remained prominent.
"We have been working alongside our host nation since the inception of the department," said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Sanabria, 374th CES firefighter. "In addition, we have also been mutual aid partners with the off base fire departments for over 50 years."
The reason for this partnership is clear. Fire spreads. What started as an on-base fire could potentially spread off base, or vise-versa. Yokota's fire emergency services recognized early on that successful fire prevention was dependent on a strong relationship between Yokota and its local townships.
"This past year alone we've trained with the Fussa, Mizuho and Akishima city fire departments," Sanabria said, mentioning 3 of 5 cities that border the base. "We have and will continue to exercise with every township in the local area."
Yokota's fire emergency services has found that that everyone brings something unique and critical to the fight.
"Each entity that we train alongside possesses something we don't: aerial firefighting, specialized rescue teams, etc.," Sanabria said. "Fortunately, by training with our partners on a continual basis, we've ensured that our guys are well equipped to stand and fight, on or off base, with our partners."
Tetsuaki Nihei, a 374th Civil Engineer Squadron fire emergency services crew chief, revealed that he has been working alongside Yokota Airmen for 25 years.
"There is no wall between us," said Nihei. "This is my normal, everyday life. I don't face my coworkers and say 'oh, you're an American firefighter or oh you're a Japanese firefighter. Our goal is all the same - saving someone's life, saving property...it doesn't matter if you're Japanese or American. If you're in trouble, everyone here is working to save you."
If the base's fire department's past is indicative of its future, then Yokota members can rest assured knowing that their safety are in good hands.