Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Little Creek, Bowers fire companies poised for water rescues during Dover air show

Rescue personnel from the Little Creek and Bowers fire companies will have their eyes to the sky while focusing on the water below this weekend when Dover Air Force Base hosts the "Thunder Over Dover" air show and open house.

The two fire companies have been training together since the beginning of the month in case a pilot needs to ditch a plane in the Delaware Bay during the air show, which starts Friday with practice flights by the famed Thunderbirds.

"Thunder Over Dover" marks the first time Dover Air Force Base has been open to the general public since 2009. Officials are looking for 150,000-200,000 people to attend the air show and open house on Saturday and Sunday.

While firefighters for Little Creek and Bowers will be a part of the emergency crews on and around the base – deploying a total of 36 members during the event – their main task will be to patrol the bay between the two towns, which is the designated area for pilots to ditch should they experience problems.

"We've been tasked by the Dover Air Force Base fire department to handle water rescues," said Little Creek Chief Scott Bundek. "They have a huge plan in place, and it was natural for us to be in the water. We'll have vessels at the north and south ends of the designated area."

Bundek said that the partnership between his fire company and Bowers makes sense because they both have water rescue capabilities and are located near Dover Air Force Base. 

He hopes their services won't be needed.

"We've never deployed a boat in the water before for an air show, and I hope we won't be needed this weekend," said Bundek, who has been with the company for 30 years. "But we've had some real-world training, so we'll be ready if we are needed."

The Little Creek fire chief said that in addition to working with Bowers this month, his first responders have spent a lot of time this summer on how to extract someone from the water during a maritime emergency.

"Our guys are prepared for anything that happens on the water," he said.

Safety has been a focus for the DAFB fire department for this two-day public event with so many planes taking part in the air show and so many people on base to take in the shows and the exhibits on the main ramp and at the Air Mobility Command Museum.

First responders tested their capabilities in late July during a major-accident response exercise on the base in preparation for the air show and open house.

DAFB officials said that countless base units and off-base community partners worked hand in hand throughout the exercise ensuring the safety of attendees of the upcoming event.

“What we are doing is exercising our emergency response plans and our command and control communications,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Orfe, open house director. “We are making sure that if this were to happen in the real world, we can respond to it efficiently and safely.”

The exercise simulated an aircraft accident resulting in more than 100 casualties. First responders reacted to the incident rapidly, quickly implementing search and rescue techniques to save as many lives as possible. Medical services were provided at the site.

“The point of the exercise was to help the open house team prepare their plans in case of a mass-casualty scenario,” said Capt. Nick Mortimer, 436th Airlift wing inspector general and deputy chief of exercises. “The IG team has been working on this for months getting the players involved. We coordinated with local and state agencies to see when they were able to participate.”

Fire companies and emergency medical services from Dover, Little Creek, Camden-Wyoming, Leipsic, Frederica, Magnolia, Marydel and Kent County all participated in the simulation and will be on base ready to react if needed during the air show and open house.

The main event

"Thunder Over Dover" will mean different things to different people depending on a person's age.

The air show and open house will showcase U.S. Air Force heritage from World War II to the present during the free two-day event.

This year marks the Air Force’s 70th anniversary, and the entire year is devoted to “Celebrating Our Heritage.” "Thunder Over Dover" is DAFB’s first open house in eight years and will highlight the U.S. Air Force's heritage with the greater Delmarva community and people from a five-state area.

“We’re going to trace the history of air power in the United States Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Todd Walker, 436th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander and 2017 "Thunder Over Dover" open house ground boss. “You’re going to get a little bit of World War II all the way up to present day." 

Both Saturday’s and Sunday’s schedules are packed with aerial demonstrations, including the USAF Thunderbirds, the Army’s Black Daggers parachute team, a P-51D Mustang demonstration and aerial acrobatics.

The main event will be the Thunderbirds, which haven't performed in Dover for eight years, Orfe said. 

The Thunderbirds have entertained more than 280 million people in over 3,500 demonstrations in all 50 states and around the world since the team first started aerial demonstrations in 1953, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Throughout the years, the team, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, has upped its game by adding more and tougher aerial acrobatics and now features a 75-minute ground and air demonstration.

The Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform in 38 places this year, including DAFB, and are scheduled for 38 shows in 2018. Orfe said the Air Force is two years out in its scheduling due to the popularity of the Thunderbirds.

Folks taking in the Thunderbirds demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday will be treated to a choreographed, drill-style ground ceremony before the pilots take to the skies for a show where they will fly only a few feet from wingtip to wingtip over Dover Air Force Base.

"They are one of the main forces of the Air Force," Orfe said. "To bring them back to Dover is a huge deal. We're serious about putting on a good show by bringing in a headliner."

There also will be more than 30 static aircraft displays in addition to the more than 40 displays also available at the Air Mobility Command Museum, which will be open and accessible via a free shuttle.

“This is the first air show we’ve had in about eight years, and it’s the first time we’ve invited the community onto the actual base in a long time,” Orfe said. “One reason for the open house is to allow the community a peek behind the curtain and tell our story. We're hoping for a lot of interaction with community members so we can say, 'Thank you for your support.'"

Orfe said event organizers are ready to welcome more than 200,000 guests to participate in a unique behind-the-scenes experience on Dover Air Force Base.

The open house director said there will be a full schedule on both days, with a plane in the air for almost every minute of the day from approximately 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, he said there will be many static displays that visitors can climb around in and ask the pilots and aircrews questions about.

"You’ll get a real up-close look that you won’t be able to get many other places," he said. "We’re looking to put on a great show.”


WHAT: "Thunder Over Dover" air show and open house

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 9 a.m. and show ends at 5 p.m. both days.

WHERE: Dover Air Force Base, 442 13th St., Dover

PARKING: Visitors are invited to park on Dover Air Force Base, accessible through the North Gate, at Del. 10 and U.S. 13. Additional parking is also available at Bergold Farms on Bergold Lane off of Del. 9, with a free shuttle service to the main event running every five to 10 minutes.

ALSO: The Air Mobility Command Museum also will be open during the open house, and a shuttle service will offer free transportation throughout the day.

COST: Free

MORE INFORMATION: For a full schedule, a list of displays, maps and a list of suggested and prohibited items, visit the "Thunder Over Dover" website at

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